By Deniese Williams
The Cabana at Jensen Dunes
Personal hygiene can become a troubling issue for older loved ones. They may wear the same dirty, rumpled clothes day after day, neglect to brush their teeth or forget to bathe entirely. What should you do when you observe that they no longer seem to care about their appearance? Here are some suggestions:
- Start a calm, nonjudgmental conversation: Approach the subject in a gentle, calm and positive manner. Understand that problems with cleanliness and hygiene in the elderly may be caused by underlying issues like depression, decreased vision or sense of smell, or even dementia-related disorders like Alzheimer’s. Keep that in mind when discussing sensitive issues.
- Don’t impose unrealistic standards: While your typical routine may include a daily shower, that might not be necessary for mom or dad. Remember, if they are not particularly active, they may not need daily bathing. In fact, too many showers or baths can lead to dry, irritated skin.
- Set up outings with friends: A lunch date with a long-time friend or a shopping trip to the mall may provide a good reason to spruce up. It’s easy for people to let appearances slip if they are largely homebound. Getting out is a good motivator.
- Make sure they are physically able: Lack of hygiene could be related to the accumulated aches and pains of aging – or even the fear of slipping and falling. Arthritis, poor coordination or joint pain make getting in the shower or tub difficult. Installing sturdy safety bars or shower/bath chairs could help.
- Check their medications: Mixing meds can trigger numerous side effects that, in turn, may cause drowsiness, lack of coordination or general malaise. Failing to shower or bathe under such circumstances can be an unintended consequence.
Perhaps the biggest concern about poor hygiene is that it can be a precursor or symptom of other, more serious age-related disabilities, such as Alzheimer’s disease. At The Cabana at Jensen Dunes, we are attuned to the myriad issues that affect older adults – and we have a dedicated, experienced, caring staff on duty 24/7 to address them. To learn more, please call us today at 772-322-1000.
Deniese Williams, Executive Director of The Cabana at Jensen Dunes, is a registered nurse with a Master of Science in Nursing and more than 20 years of experience in the long-term care industry.