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How Do You Approach an Elderly Person About Personal Hygiene?

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A comfortable life is all about achieving the activities of daily living. These activities, like eating, dressing, moving, are all essential to being healthy, but one of the most important (and sometimes hardest to maintain) is personal hygiene.

Personal hygiene doesn’t just affect your loved one, either—it can also affect you and even the others your loved one spends their time with. So if the person you care for falls off their hygiene routines, how do you approach the subject with them?

Broaching this subject can seem difficult at first, but there is always a way you can talk to your loved one to ensure their basic needs are met and respected. 

Let’s look at how you can encourage healthy personal hygiene habits with your loved one. 

For a more focused, personal touch, feel free to speak to one of our staff members at Bentley Commons in Lynchburg to see how one of our lifestyles could offer the comfort, care, and dignity your loved one deserves.

Why Would Personal Hygiene Become an Issue?

Before we get into how you can talk to your loved one about potential personal hygiene concerns, we should first look at why someone would start to fall behind on their usual routines.

As we get older, we can face many physical and mental changes which affect our ability to bathe ourselves and keep up with a routine. Some issues our loved ones can face as they age can include:


Several events can trigger depression, like specific health diagnoses, injuries, the death of a friend or family member, or even a change in the seasons. And while depression is a common mental health concern many people face throughout life, we should understand that depression is not a normal part of aging. In fact, some researchers have found that older adults are happier with their overall life when compared to younger people. 

Still, depression can affect anyone and could change how your loved one behaves, including how they maintain their personal hygiene. Some other signs can include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Low energy
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Eating problems

Memory Loss

One of the most common concerns people can have as they grow older is the loss of their cognitive abilities. Many older adults can develop cognitive impairments like Alzheimer’s and dementia, making it incredibly difficult to maintain a routine and keep up with personal hygiene habits.

Cognitive impairments like these typically develop slowly, and the risk can increase based on family history, past brain injuries, and certain chronic health conditions. Still, there are some noticeable signs you could look for if you’re worried your loved one is developing a cognitive impairment, like:

  • Difficulty keeping appointments
  • Trouble staying on-topic during conversations
  • Wandering or getting lost often
  • Impulsive behavior

Cognitive issues may also lead to other symptoms like depression, anxiety, irritability, and apathy. 

Changing Senses

It’s also possible to experience a change in our senses, particularly our ability to smell. According to some researchers, 23% of Americans over the age of 40 experience a loss of smell as they grow older, making it difficult to notice if we have a particular odor we need to address.

When it comes to your loved one, they might not know they have a hygiene problem, so it’s always best to approach the subject with understanding.

Fear of Losing Control & Dignity

Getting older can also mean losing some of our abilities to take care of ourselves, and this can be a difficult reality to accept. Some people like having as much independence as possible, but cognitive and physical impairments can force us to rely on family members and caregivers to meet our needs. As such, your loved one can have a less-than-thrilled attitude to these changes in their life.

Because your loved one may insist on taking care of themselves, they may start to fall off their usual hygiene routines.

Opening The Discussion

A younger woman and a senior man sit on a couch together speaking while holding coffee cups.

Now that we know why your loved one may be struggling with hygiene, it’s time to look at ways we can bring up the subject without hurting their feelings, disrespecting their dignity, and making them uncomfortable.

It’s important to know that everyone responds to these situations differently, so if you run into a little resistance during your first discussion, it’s okay to take a break and come back to it a little later. What’s important is that your loved one knows you’re looking out for them and their well-being.

Some strategies that could help encourage a better hygiene routine can be:

Asking Their Doctor for Advice

While we would all love for our loved ones to listen to our concerns, they might need some extra encouragement from an expert like their doctor.

If you’re concerned about your loved one’s hygiene, it might be good to schedule an appointment with their physician to see if physical problems prevent them from bathing themselves properly. In some cases, your loved one might not want to share this information with you, but their doctor could offer some advice on addressing these concerns.

Keeping The Conversation Positive

When it’s time to talk about your loved one’s hygiene, it’s imperative to avoid accusatory or negative language. No one likes feeling attacked or judged, so approaching the subject with empathy can lower the risk of resistance, and encourage a healthy, helpful conversation.

Empathy is essential for tough conversations like these, so take some time to understand that your loved one is facing an issue they might feel embarrassed or scared to talk about.

Address The Source of The Issue & Offer a Solution

If you already know what may be causing your loved one’s hygienic problems, you can come to the conversation prepared with solutions that can help them. However, if you’re not sure why your loved one is struggling with their hygiene, you might need to be open and honest with your concerns to see how you could offer a solution.

Once you have an idea of what the issue may be, you can offer several different strategies to help encourage a healthier hygiene routine. These strategies can include:

  • Making their bathroom more accessible (grab bars, non-slip mats, etc.)
  • Offer the help of a caregiver, nurse, or bath aide
  • Organizing bathing accessories

In some cases, though, these strategies might not be enough. If your loved one continues to struggle with their hygiene habits, it might be time to consider the professional caregiving services we provide at Bentley Commons in Lynchburg.

Through the compassionate services our lifestyle options provide, we can help ensure your loved one consistently meets a healthy standard of living. Speak to one of our staff members today and see how we can bring care, comfort, and security to your loved one’s life.

Written by bentley

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