Seniors and Personal Care: How to Help When Their Personal Appearance Is Neglected

If an older loved one seems to be neglecting their personal hygiene, it could be time to determine whether they just need an occasional extra hand, or if there is a larger problem. Talking about seniors and personal care can be a difficult conversation to have, but the answers could help your loved one continue to look and feel their best.

Seniors and personal care: what to look for

Most people just feel better when they look good, no matter their age. Clean, crisp clothing, a smart haircut and fresh breath puts a spring in a person’s step, especially if they are from a generation that placed high value on good hygiene. Seniors and personal care just seem to naturally go together.

But as we age, there are some factors that can interfere with our daily routine—factors that can be signs of a bigger problem.

A disheveled appearance, such as hair that is not combed, clothing that hasn’t been laundered, poor bath habits—these can be signs of depression, mild cognitive issues or a physical challenge. If possible, try to get your loved one to open up about why this is happening.

It’s possible they can no longer do the laundry on their own. Or trying to wash and style their hair is too hard due to arthritic pain, or even a fear of falling in the shower. They might have difficulty opening a bottle or container, or reading directions if their vision has changed.

No matter the reasons, your loved one might be hesitant to admit they are having difficulties for fear they will have to leave their home. It’s important to let them know that you are only concerned about their wellbeing; that having a home health aide stop by occasionally to help with light housework, laundry, bathing and dressing might be the answer. Or you might be able to visit more frequently. Perhaps a visit to their physician could give you both more insight into whether there’s been a change in mobility, vision, or cognitive skills.

Why bother with appearances?

When a senior is keeping up a positive appearance, it lifts their mood and helps them feel more confident going through the day. They are better at handling stress and are more motivated to interact with others. It’s a sense of pride and self-awareness, vital for cognitive health.

In addition, there are physical benefits to a neat appearance.

  • Bathing is key to overall health. When a person does not take a bath or shower on a regular basis, they can develop skin infections and irritations. It also can increase their risk of urinary tract infections. However, if your older loved one is not as active as they used to be, they need only bathe a few days a week, especially If they also moisturize their skin.
  • Dental hygiene is important as well. According to the National Institutes of Health, a healthy mouth helps people enjoy their food, chew better, eat well, and avoid pain and tooth loss. With good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist, older adults can maintain their oral health into their older years. If it seems your Mom or Dad is neglecting their teeth, schedule a visit with their dentist to determine if there is an issue that could be causing them to not brush, such as painful gums. Not brushing or flossing can cause tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath.
  • Clean feet matter. Seniors and personal care is about more than just a clean shirt or nice hairdo. Keeping feet clean, as well as regularly seeing a podiatrist for nail trims and other issues, can make a huge difference in health as well as mobility. As we age, healing slows, and a minor injury like a blister can affect older adults' mobility, balance, and overall general health. The better your loved one’s feet, the more active they can be, and the more independent they can remain.

Seniors and personal care: If your loved one needs more assistance

If daily household chores are becoming overwhelming for your loved one and maintaining personal hygiene is not something they can easily handle, you might consider a more supportive lifestyle.

For example, in an assisted living environment such as that offered by The Herrick House, experienced caregivers provide assistance with day-to-day tasks, such as dressing, grooming and medication management. Your loved one can sit back and relax in a warm and welcoming atmosphere filled with friends, activities, wellness, and more. No more worrying about the laundry or any other housekeeping duty—it’s taken care of.

Living in such an uplifting and supportive lifestyle might just be the boost your loved one needs—and the peace of mind you and your family will appreciate.

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