Personal Hygiene Checklist for the Elderly
As we age, it becomes more difficult to do things ourselves, especially maintaining proper personal hygiene. Proper hygiene is more important than just for health reasons; in fact, hygiene plays a significant role in our self-esteem and mood. Whether it be from forgetfulness or lack of ability, poor hygiene can be all too common among seniors. Hygiene practices tend to decline as we age, and it can lead to a variety of health issues like rashes, infections, and more, in addition to being uncomfortable in social scenarios.
As a caregiver, you have an obligation to your client or loved one to help maintain their hygiene for their health, wellbeing, and self-esteem. Below, we’ll cover some necessary steps to maintaining your senior’s hygiene while maintaining their modesty.
Here is an easy personal hygiene checklist for elderly clients for caregivers to follow.
Establish a Routine or Schedule
Routines are an easy way to ensure you meet your client’s or loved one’s needs. The routine can start early in the morning with a shower or bath, followed by proper hair and oral care.
Establishing a routine creates a standard for the day and reduces the chance of forgetting an important hygiene step. Caregivers should help them throughout the process, especially if they need assistance bathing or with oral care.
Ensure Bathroom Safety
The bathroom can be one of the most dangerous places for a senior to be, especially for those that struggle with balance issues. Wet floors, insufficient places to grab for support, and low toilet seats lead to slips and falls.
As a caregiver, you’ll be there to reduce the risk of falls, but there are additional modifications you can make to improve your senior’s safety in the bathroom. Walk-in tubs are great for seniors because they eliminate the need for them to step over the wall of the tub, reducing the risk of slipping. Instead, walk-in tubs open with a door, and some even have a seat which is great for seniors who can’t stand for long. Less costly options include slip-free mats, raised toilet seats, and grab bars for support. Some raised toilet seats also come with handles which makes it easier for seniors to get up and down.
Protect Their Modesty
Aging makes it difficult for seniors to do these basic hygiene tasks themselves, which can feel degrading. This commonly comes from the need to wash intimate areas. Since they need your assistance, you will need to find ways to maintain their modesty and self-esteem during these actions.
An easy way to alleviate the degradation seniors feel from assisted bathing is to help them feel in control during the process. By cleaning one private part at a time, you allow your senior to cover the others, making them feel less exposed. In addition, you can let them help in the process of cleaning these private parts by allowing them to clean those areas.
Consistent and regular bathing is important for anyone, especially seniors. While there is an important hygiene aspect to regular bathing, it also helps remove bacteria and reduces the chances of infections. In addition, a bath or shower helps your client or loved one feel refreshed and good about themselves.
As a caregiver, part of your duties is to maintain the health and wellness of your client or loved one. That means you’ll need to be able to perform regular bathing of their entire bodies. It’s important to remember to maintain their modesty as best you can during bathing, and it’s important for their mental health.
Elderly skin can often be dry, thin, and brittle, so it’s a good idea to practice regular skincare and moisturizing. Moisturizing their skin helps make their skin smoother, healthier and give their skin the vitamins it needs to stay hydrated. We recommend applying lotion or another type of moisturizer daily if possible or whenever your client or loved one bathes. In addition, most seniors tend to prefer unscented lotions to scented ones, so we recommend using those.
Oral care is an important part of a senior’s daily routine, and seniors have much more to do if they have dentures. The elderly tend to have more issues with tooth decay and gum disease too, which puts a greater emphasis on ensuring this aspect of their personal hygiene is good.
Caregivers need to be aware of the needs of seniors that have dentures too. Denture care requires constant maintenance. The dentures should get rinsed after every meal. When removing dentures, the senior’s mouth needs cleaning as well. Gargling warm salt water is an easy way to clean your senior’s mouth, or you can use a clean washcloth dipped in the warm salt water to wipe the gums, mouth, and roof of the mouth. Use a soft toothbrush to brush the gums to keep them clean. At the end of the day, the dentures should be properly cleaned and soaked at night. If you soak the dentures in a denture cleaning solution, be sure to rinse them off thoroughly before putting them back on.
Hair & Nail Care
Hair is a highly personal and visible aspect of a senior’s lifestyle, so regular washing and cutting are necessary. Many salons offer hair washing and cutting services for seniors. That said, for more sedentary or mobility-impaired seniors, it’s possible to have a traveling stylist come to your home. If possible, your senior should have a say in their haircut so they can feel comfortable and in control of the decision.
Regularly trim their nails to ensure they don’t get too long or sharp. Both hands and toenails should get washed thoroughly when you bathe your client or loved one. Fungal and bacterial infections can happen under the nails when they’re improperly cleaned.
Wash Clothing Regularly
If your client or loved one doesn’t bathe daily, we recommend changing their clothes every 48 hours. Most seniors don’t bathe daily; the average is about three to four times a week, making it easier for you, the caregiver, to change their clothes after they bathe. Clothes absorb sweat and water, which allows bacteria to grow.
We recommend using clothes that are easy to get on and off for seniors with mobility problems. Waistbands and velcro clothing will be much easier to remove than clothes with buttons, belts, and zippers.
Clean Other Linens
We recommend cleaning your senior’s bed sheets, pillowcases, towels, and any other frequently used linens regularly. If your senior is sick or occasionally has incontinence in bed, you may need to wash and change these sheets daily. Washing towels and other clothes after use is good for their health, too, since it limits the opportunity for mold growth and it gets rid of bacteria on the towels.
Continence help is another factor of personal hygiene that requires you to take into consideration how uncomfortable the issue can make your client or loved one feel. Understandably so, incontinence can be embarrassing for seniors, especially in social scenarios. Part of the duties of being a caregiver require you to change bedpans, colostomy bags, and diapers, but it’s important to maintain your senior’s dignity while doing so.
There are minor changes you can make to help your senior regain some dignity in this regard. First, after assisting your senior onto the toilet, step out of the room to give them privacy while still being nearby to assist them if necessary. While in public, it may be wise to have your client or loved one wear an adult diaper to prevent visible accidents and to soak up the moisture to prevent a rash from forming. At night, there are incontinence pads and bed protectors you can use to protect your senior from getting a rash or damaging their sheets.
The Importance of Hygiene for the Elderly
Proper hygiene is essential for the self-esteem and physical health of your client or loved one. Aging makes it difficult for some to maintain a proper hygiene routine, which can be detrimental to their mental and physical health, which is why caregivers play such an important role in their lives. As caregivers, it’s essential to focus on this human aspect to understand the mental pressure proper hygiene has on a person. By taking care of the elderly, you’ll enhance their quality of life, give them greater confidence, and boost their happiness.
There may be instances where your client or loved one may not want your help. In that case, you need to find ways to support them and encourage a hygiene routine they can perform. It can also mean they are uncomfortable with the process. You may need to alter your methods to ensure you maintain their comfort and modesty.
Summary of Personal Hygiene for Elderly
Personal hygiene is very important, especially for seniors, to maintain good health and self-esteem. While this is an essential duty as a caregiver, it’s essential to remember the human aspect of this duty. Having another person care for your hygiene can be degrading. You’ll need to find ways to maintain your senior’s dignity and respect throughout the process.
As a caregiver, you’ll need to prepare to help your clients and loved ones through this change in lifestyle. At JEVS Care at Home, we ensure all of the caregivers we work with have the training and support they need to be the best caregivers they can be. To learn more about how JEVS Care at Home helps prepare you for the challenges of being a caregiver and the training and support we provide, click here