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Sensitivity needed when talking hygiene Jenny Wallis | Sat, Jul 06 2013 12:00 PM

Dear Jenny, I recently spent the weekend at my in laws home.  They are a lovely couple who have been married for more than 55 years.  I did notice, however, that they are not taking care of themselves when it comes to their own hygiene.  It’s almost like they don’t care, have you ever heard of something like this?

Quite often, personal hygiene becomes an issue for seniors, due to illness or bad health. When this time comes and the senior is no longer able to take care of personal hygiene themselves, assistance can be offered.

It is important to build up trust with the person that you are responsible for caring. You should tell them the routine you will be setting up for their daily care and hygiene.  It is essential they know what is going to be happening.   This will help them to know what to expect and it may even help them relax a bit. Many seniors  are reluctant to let someone else assist with their personal hygiene; most likely because it gives them a sense of being dependent and having lost their dignity. Sometimes this may cause them to react angrily or verbally abuse the caregiver. A lot of patience and understanding is required to administer personal hygiene to the elderly.

If the senior can take care of at least a small part of their personal hygiene, they must be encouraged to do so. This will give them a feeling of achievement and independence and maybe even lift their spirits. The routine established for a senior’s personal hygiene should include washing, deodorizing and brushing teeth. All of these are integral parts of personal hygiene. Other small activities can be added to the routine depending upon the individual’s need.
Here are some practical tips on making personal hygiene less stressful:

• Create Time.  Use a calendar and let the care recipient participate in setting the time and date.

• Create open communication.   As you’re getting the bath water or shower ready, speak with the care recipient, telling them what you are going to do before proceeding.

• Create a safe environment.  Bath rugs are opportunities for a fall so remove them or pull them back if needed. Use bath chairs, non-slip mats and safety bars.   If the recipient is able to bathe and live alone, a medical alert system is a wise investment in the event of a fall.

• Create ease.  A shower head can easily be replaced with a hand-held shower.

• Create a sense of modesty. Allow your loved one to do as much of the bathing process as possible while considering safety.

• Create a sense of compromise.  If your care recipient can’t bathe in a tub or shower, use no-rinse washcloths and dry shampoo between weekly bed baths.

Tasks and chores that a person can no longer do on their own can create feelings of anger, frustration, fear and sadness. If your care recipient is reluctant or hesitant, empathize and try to have a light-hearted discussion about how you can make this a less traumatic experience.  Personal hygiene is often the first thing seniors are willing to ignore. 

Together you can implement a plan that works for everyone.

If you have questions about senior care or helping an elderly loved one, contact Jenny Wallis, Community Marketing Director at Villa Bonita Senior Living at 619-739-4400 or by e-mail at villabonitamkg2@islllc.com.
Villa Bonita Senior Living is an Assisted Living Community licensed by the California Department of Social Services, located at 3434 Bonita Road, Chula Vista, CA  91910.  You can also visit Villa Bonita online at www.villabonitaseniorliving.com.

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