How to Maintain Good Personal Hygiene in the Elderly

Updated March 23, 2017

Helping to maintain the personal hygiene of an elderly person in your care not only promotes the individual's physical health but can also improve her emotional well-being. Proper hygiene contributes to an individual's self esteem, since being unable to groom as usual can cause her to feel frustrated and depressed. According to an article published in the September 1998 issue of Topics of Geriatric Rehabilitation, an ageing population will see an increase in the number of elderly who will require some assistance with the daily activities of living. But assisting elderly individuals in managing their personal hygiene can help them to feel better about themselves.

Wash your own hands before assisting another individual with personal hygiene. This is one of the best ways to protect yourself and the person for whom you are caring against illness and infections.

Let the elderly person know what to expect so that he can relax. It is not always easy to rely on someone else to do these kinds of things for you. His self-respect and dignity need to be taken seriously. Even though a full bath or shower may not be needed every day, more frequent perineal, or peri, care may be required if the person is incontinent.

Be considerate. Encourage the person to do as much for herself as possible. Your goal is to provide assistance yet promote independence. Do not make her completely reliant on you. Allowing her to do what she can for herself can also help to enhance motor skills and use of the arms.

Adjust the water temperature before bathing. Bathe only one part of the body at a time, particularly if the person is modest. Wash the face and upper torso first, then the arms and legs. Dry and rub on lotion to moisturise the skin.

Look for any changes in the person's skin while bathing him. Reporting any lumps, bruises or other physical changes could lead to early diagnosis of illness or infection.

Shampoo hair. This can be a difficult task if the person is confined to bed. However, there are special inflatable shampoo basins and hair-washing trays available to aid people who have mobility problems and must remain in bed or those who use wheelchairs.

Use a soft toothbrush to brush the person's teeth. If he person has dentures, help remove them and then clean by scrubbing with toothpaste and rinsing. Encourage some level of independence even if he performs some of these tasks slowly.

Cut the person's fingernails and toenails routinely. Long nails can be uncomfortable, especially if they are thick and brittle. Neglected nails can also become infected and may lead to foot ulcers. Always cut toenails straight across and then file smooth any rough edges.

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About the Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.