This article focuses on personal hygiene products for elderly.
Personal hygiene is one of those small things that we all take for granted for ourselves. After all, brushing your teeth, taking a bath, combing your hair, and dressing up is something that we all do every day and most of us would feel that these are simple tasks that anybody can perform.
Sadly, however, life’s long journey takes our loved ones to a point where even these menial tasks seem like the twelve labors of Hercules because their frail bodies are unable to support them.
One of the most challenging aspects of aging is that as each part of the body starts to function a little less flexibly we tend to start dreading each of those tasks that were associated with that body part.
For example, if there is a weakness in our hands we start to avoid any task that involves our picking up other objects. Similarly, when we start to get a pain in our lower back we may stop activities such as showering daily or wearing clothes that are difficult to put on without twisting our body.
It is incumbent upon the caregiver, then, to make sure that our loved ones are not deprived of these small activities that add joy to our life, keep us clean and healthy, and well-groomed so that we are confident enough to face the world.
In this article, we are going to discuss some of the important aspects that a caregiver needs to consider in ensuring the personal hygiene of an elderly loved one.
Level of help
Before starting any discussion about bathing and related activities, you need to first be able to take a complete assessment of the level of help that your loved ones require.
It may be the case that they only need help in carrying out minor activities such as laying out the clothes or getting the bath ready, and they are capable of washing themselves properly without any help.
In other cases, you might find that they have a difficulty in bathing themselves because the proper equipment is not installed in the bathroom.
Lastly, there might be cases where you need to take the initiative in doing a sponge bath on your loved one. If your loved one is afflicted with a dementia disorder such as Alzheimers’, then you have an even tougher battle in front of you. You might want to work on some of the strategies discussed here
Have a discussion with them and try to assess their pain points instead of forcing your views. Remember to be patient and understanding while still being firm on the need for regular washing.
Privacy & dignity
The most important thing when bathing your loved ones is to make sure that they are comfortable with anything that you are suggesting. It should not seem to them that your help is being forced upon, rather, it should come as a natural extension of their want to be clean and well-groomed.
Discuss every aspect with them, making sure to explain what you are proposing to do and whether they are okay with it or not. Do have a talk about cleaning sensitive and private areas, such as genitals. Find a common ground with which they are equally comfortable.
It is most important that you explain everything that you are about to do so that they know what is about to happen beforehand, there are no surprises, and they are willing to cooperate with you in every aspect.
We discussed earlier that in some cases it might just be that with the proper equipment installed in the bathroom your loved one would be able to take care of bathing themselves without any hiccups.
Depending upon the level of mobility that your loved one is capable of there are several devices available that can help them take a bath without any help.
- Transfer Devices: For example, you can always install a walk-in bathtub if your loved one is not capable of crossing over a regular bathtub’s edge. In some cases, instead of installing a new bathtub, you might just want to install a transfer disc, some of which also come with swivel chairs which help you transfer them over the edge of the bathtub.
- Bath lifts: Another innovation that can help your loved one bathe is a bath lift. Bath lifts are meant for people whose movement is constrained even more than what we have discussed above.
- Shower aids: Sometimes, your loved ones may find it difficult to stand for the entire duration of the shower. In such cases, you should look at installing shower chairs, where they can sit.
- If you are constrained for space, you should look at wall mounted shower seats, which will save space as well as give a comfortable spot for them to sit on while showering. You may also want to install things like a shower caddy or a handheld showerhead.
- Standing-up aids: Of course, grab bars and anti-slip mats are a no-brainer when it comes to bathroom safety. An alternative to safety mats are shower shoes, that help them shower without the risk of slipping and falling down
- Medical Alert Devices: Lastly, it may entirely be possible that your loved ones will choose to manage everything on their own, despite age and problems. That does not however mean that you cannot do anything about their safety. One of the biggest risks for seniors in bathrooms is the risk of falling down and hurting themselves. To prevent a fall from becoming a major mishap, you should consider asking them to use medical alert devices. You should also understand CPR, and keep a handy CPR training kit at home for practice.
- In case of accident: While every effort can be made to avert accidents, they do happen. About 36 million elderly adults fall down each year, and of those 3 million are treated in the ER for major injuries. You should alway be prepared with a strategy on what to do after a fall, and one of the first things that you may need to do is to learn how to open a locked bathroom door.
Setting a routine
Make sure to discuss and agree upon a regular bath-time every day. having a schedule in place helps overcome jittery nerves and ensures that your loved ones are aware of what is about to happen and are mentally prepared with all aspects of it. Keep an easy to read watch in their room, so that they can know that it is bath time or even other activities during the day.
Make sure to keep all items that are necessary for a bath placed in a single spot where they can be easily accessed during the bath and afterward as well. Assess how much shampoo, bathing sheets, towels, and body wash is needed for the bath and keep them ready before you start anything.
Ensuring complete cleanliness
When giving a sponge bath, make sure to clean in those areas where it might be difficult to reach such as folds under the skin, under breasts, thighs, and genitals. These areas regularly get missed when watching by yourself and are therefore susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections
Elderly skin is susceptible to damage and skin breakdown. Make sure that you are using a soft towel and “patting down” instead of wiping the skin.
Secondly, also make sure while bathing to look carefully at all parts of the body so that you are able to diagnose rashes and bedsores early on before they become a bigger problem.
Be sure to install protective mattresses that help reduce the likelihood of pressure sores in their room.
Maintaining oral hygiene is extremely important for the elderly. We need to ensure that they visit the dentist at least once in every 6 months and get their teeth or dentures checked out. While regular brushing and flossing is absolutely important, it may make sense to use an electric toothbrush which has a better and wider grip so that your loved one can easily hold on to it. Secondly, make sure to use a soft brush to clean the dentures on a regular basis. Dentures need to be taken out at least once a day for cleaning even though it might be a bit inconvenient.
Toileting can become extremely inconvenient especially if you or a loved one finds it difficult to move around and sit down or stand up from a sitting position.
For Self Use
There are several devices in the market that help to raise the toilet or add Safety frame around it so that it is easy for your loved one to hold on to the railings while sitting down or standing up. Another good idea would be to install a bidet in the toilet instead of using toilet paper to wash. Of course, grab bars should be installed near the toilet frame and along the path from the door towards the toilet. Make sure that hot and cold water faucets are marked with bright colors and bold letters
For Mobility Aid Users
If your loved ones are incapable of moving to the toilet, then there are several devices that can help them relieve themselves such as bedside commodes and commode wheelchairs which perform the dual purpose of mobility and toileting. If your loved one is using a wheelchair, then you should also consider making your toilet ADA compliant, including installing a wheelchair accessible sink and an ADA compliant toilet.
Grooming, especially w.r.t clothing is very much influenced by personal choice. Sometimes, clothes that may have been favorites at one time need to be let go because they are too inconvenient to be put on any more.
However, make sure that your loved ones are comfortable with the options that you may be picking out for them, and feel confident in venturing out wearing those clothes.
Before talking about external clothing, let us first think about innerwear as well. Absorbent underwear are an effective way to solve the problem of incontinence that is common among the elderly.
There are several innovations such as slip-on clothes, velcro, and magnetic fasteners, dressing sticks, button hooks, shoe horns, etc that can help your loved ones to put on their clothes without having to bend down or twist themselves much. If they intend to move out a lot, be sure to put on EMF protection clothing for them.
If your loved ones have blindness or their ability to see has diminished to a large extent, then there are several adaptive clothing elements that would be perfect for them to clothe themselves, which you should consider buying.
Skincare is extremely important for seniors because their skin is more susceptible to bedsores and pressure ulcers as well as in extreme cases skin breakdown. The trick is to ensure a few important steps every day, such as proper diet and regular exercise, ensuring the skin is dry and fresh at all times, cleaning feces and urine immediately and ensuring bed pads are replaced every day to absorb them in case of incontinence, regular checkup for rashes and bedsores and use of extremely mild skincare products.
We have only touched the surface on personal hygiene for the elderly, but what is important to note is that a healthy conversation is very very important about these matters.
Without an open and frank discussion about hygiene habits, the problems that they are facing in completing these tasks, and the help that they need from your end, you will always be facing an uphill battle with diseases, rashes, skin problems and a host of other difficulties that a simple process of personal hygiene can resolve with very little investment.