Hygiene & Grooming Tips/Techniques for Seniors & Elderly

Taking care of yourself hygienically and taking the time to properly groom to look one’s best are sources of pride and signs of independence and self-sufficiency. However, for some people, aging renders grooming and being hygienic to become increasingly difficult tasks that are a hardship to complete without the aid of a family member, friend, caregiver, or another helpful hand.

If you are someone tasked with grooming and taking care of a senior or elderly person’s hygiene, you should realize that while you are, of course, helping him or her with essential tasks needed to continue to living independently, he or she is more likely than not experiencing a sense of loss of self-esteem and independence, which, if left unchecked, can lead to increasing levels of agitation and potential depression. Being unable to take care of one’s hygiene and grooming without help begins to make most seniors feel as though they are simply no longer self-sufficient.

When helping a senior or elderly person with their hygiene and grooming tasks, take care to treat them as you would any adult- with respect and dignity. While treating seniors with respect and dignity are crucial elements in properly taking care of seniors who need assistance with hygiene and grooming tasks, it is recommended that you also consider and implement the following tips for assisting with hygiene and grooming-related tasks.

Hygiene/Bathing Tips and Techniques

When it comes to hygiene, regularly bathing is perhaps the most important action one can take to ensure that their hygiene is up to par. Unfortunately, assisting elderly persons with bathing can be quite cumbersome and difficult if you are not aware of some common issues and overlooked aspects; here are some helpful considerations:

  • Try to perform bathing and other hygiene chores at the same time each day, taking care to follow the same routine each time- doing so can help make bathing go more quickly and smoothly. This also applies to post-bathing routines, such as drying off.
  • Some seniors may prefer the shower over the bath; you should make sure you understand the desires of the elderly person you are assisting. Taking a shower can be easier and safer than taking a bath and can make some seniors feel less apprehensive about doing this important hygienic task.
  • When helping elderly persons take a bath in a tub, fill it up with just four to six inches of water and always stay by the person’s side for the duration of the entire bath.
  • If the elderly person you are taking care of is startled or upset when entering a filled tub that they have not seen being filled with their own eyes, make sure that they are in the bathroom while the tub is being filled.
  • If the elderly person is startled or upset as the sight or sound of running water, fill the tub prior to bringing them into the bathroom.
  • Try not to stress out if bathing takes a while- it is common for showers and baths to take all morning initially. Take each step involved in showering or bathing one at a time and keep your wits about you.
  • Do not become overly concerned about the details- just make sure that the important body parts and areas have been thoroughly washed.
  • The genitals and the region around the genitals are sensitive areas that need to be washed during each shower or bath. Before cleansing the genitals, make sure that the elderly person is aware about the area that you are about to wash. Using a sponge or wearing mitts may help when assisting elderly persons wash the genital region.
  • Be sure to always keep in mind any special needs the elderly person has and to be able to adapt your methods and approaches to accommodate these needs. For example, while most seniors may find that the sound of running water is soothing, some elderly people, especially those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, may find that the sound of running water is frightening.
  • Some seniors may be shy or self-conscious about being fully nude around another person. If the elderly person you are tasked with assisting expresses any concern about being fully nude, try covering the person in a towel or shower blanket when showering or bathing.
  • In some cases, being fully nude may be a big enough concern that complete showers and baths may have to be limited to just once a week, with sponge baths on all other days to take care of daily hygiene.
  • Avoid using slippery oils when assisting with showers and do not add a bubble bath to baths.
  • Install any necessary grab bars and railings in the shower and bath as well as non-slip inserts on the floors of the shower and bath.
  • Install any other helpful equipment, such as a bench in the shower, as needed.
  • Make sure that the temperature of both the bathroom and the water used in the shower/bath are at a comfortable level- not too cold and not too hot. Be sure to understand what the elderly person prefers.
  • Taking the time to make sure that all necessary items and equipment needed for showering and bathing are on-hand prior to performing either task can make all steps involved go more smoothly.
  • Make sure that the bathroom, especially the areas around the shower and tub, are safe, clean, and free of clutter.
  • Keep all electrical appliances contained and in one area.
  • Use non-slip mats wherever you deem that they are needed.
  • It is highly advisable that locks be removed from the doors of bathrooms, in the event that an emergency occurs while the elderly person is in the bathroom by him or herself
  • Make sure that the bathroom and shower/tub areas have adequate lighting.
  • Do not force or argue with the elderly person to perform steps that they are actively resisting; just be sure that, if anything, the genitals have been thoroughly cleaned.
  • Allow the elderly person to perform shower/bathing steps on their own if they can. Avoid micro-managing and give simple instructions when they are needed.

Grooming Tips & Techniques

Hair

  • If the elderly person had a regular routine when it came to hair maintenance before they began to need grooming assistance, try to make it so that they can keep their original routines.
  • When getting a haircut, be sure to get styles that are easy to maintain.
  • If just the elderly person’s hair needs to be washed, it may be easier to wash hair in the kitchen sink, especially if it has a hose or spray attachment, rather than using the shower or tub.

Shaving

  • When it comes to assisting elderly persons with grooming, shaving is perhaps one of the more difficult tasks to perform effectively.
  • Let the elderly person shave themselves for as long as possible, with you simply acting in a supervisory capacity.
  • You may find that an electric razor will help with getting rid of hair on the face and other areas of the body immensely.
  • Plucking certain facial hairs may be more effective than shaving.

Nail Care & Maintenance

  • Encourage seniors and elderly persons to take care of their nails by themselves for as long as they can. Some elderly persons may find that nail maintenance is a much more enjoyable task while watching television or listening to music.
  • When elderly persons begin to need assistance, try to trim their fingernails and toenails at least twice a month.
  • Sometimes, toenails and other foot issues, such as bunions, can cause seniors and elderly persons to experience discomfort when walking. A visit to the podiatrist, which is covered by most health insurance plans, may be necessary.

Oral Health & Maintenance

  • Encourage elderly persons to brush their teeth and dentures, if they have them, at least twice a day.
  • Make sure the elderly person you are assisting is visiting his or her dentist on a regular basis.
  • Regular dental check-ups are even more important for seniors and elderly persons with dentures as ill-fitting dentures can result in mouth sores and lead to poor eating habits.

Makeup

  • Some elderly women may find that applying makeup becomes harder and harder as each day goes by, until they simply stop applying makeup completely. You can help make elderly women who have given up on makeup feel better by assisting them with makeup application. Even the application of just some powder and light-toned lipstick can work wonders.

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