Senior Hygiene: Tips for Caregivers & Loved Ones

Are you unsure of how to take care of your aging parent’s hygiene issues? Learn how to speak to them about it and how you can make your loved one’s life easier.

Personal hygiene is important for your health, but age can make it difficult to keep doing the same simple tasks as before.

If you have a senior loved one who might have trouble daily living, don’t look for an assisted living facility.

It’s better to provide home care for elderly adults because they can be among their family members. Here’s how to make their lives easier.

What Are the 6 Types of Personal Hygiene?

We’ll be going over how an aging adult can bounce back from their poor hygiene later.

But first, it’s good to learn about the different kinds of personal hygiene for seniors to provide better personal care to your loved ones.

Toilet Hygiene

Senior care cannot be overlooked. As part of a cleaner life, older adults should remember to wash their hands every time they finish using the restroom.

They should clean between their fingers and under their nails.

If soap and running water aren’t readily available, an alcohol sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol will work fine.

Shower Hygiene

Showering might have been a daily part of life for seniors, but this will change as time goes on. Don’t try to go for daily baths.

Instead, a good standard for senior hygiene is bathe once or twice a week.

Remember that a senior citizen will be much less receptive to cold and hot water. Opt for warmer water instead, and keep the showers quick.

Ten minutes is a good time for showers.

Hand Hygiene

Apart from the restroom, you have to regularly wash your hands since you use them for everything. Your hands are like a potential pathway for germs.

Older adults might not always remember to clean up after everything they do because of memory loss.

Before you eat or cook, after handling garbage or cuddling with the family pet, and after sneezing, wash your hands.

Nail Hygiene

Don’t forget the smaller things like their nails when providing senior care.

Keep their nails short and trim to avoid anything from building up underneath.

If you have a nail brush or a washcloth, use them to brush underneath them to eliminate any dirt and germs that can build up.

Dental Hygiene

Dental hygiene goes further than just brushing teeth. You need to maintain a specific level of dental care for a healthier life, even for senior citizens.

Aim to get your loved one to brush their teeth twice a day with high-fluoride toothpaste. This will help strengthen their teeth and prevent tooth decay.

Some seniors will need help with the small circular movements in brushing their teeth.

Try getting them an electric toothbrush. It’s a small gift that can go a long way in helping your loved ones improve their hygiene.

Body Hygiene

Your skin produces sweat and oils all over, and the sweat will eventually produce an odor when it dries. Bathing regularly will rinse away these oils and smells, helping you feel fresher.

Older folks will also develop skin folds that you need to pay attention to. These are sites where bacteria can grow, so they need to be cleaned properly.

Skin folds can develop in the breasts, neck, stomach and private parts.

How Do You Spot Poor Hygiene?

The signs of poor personal hygiene are not specific to seniors, so think of this as a general guide.

  • Body odor from not bathing regularly
  • Wearing stained or soiled clothing
  • Unwashed and untrimmed fingernails and toenails
  • Greasy or disheveled hair
  • Bad breath, decaying teeth, and bits of food in their teeth

Elderly Personal Hygiene

This section will discuss specific kinds of senior care that you or a professional caregiver need to look out for.

Dementia Patients

Dementia is a common affliction later in life and can contribute to poor hygiene.

If your loved one’s cognitive abilities are impaired, providing good senior hygiene will be more difficult for you, but not impossible.

You must move slower with them and be careful. Some seniors may not fully understand what is happening when you bathe them and may resist the steps involved with a bath.

It might be in your best interest to hire a professional caregiver to aid your aging loved one.

There’s also memory loss to consider. Some older people truly believe they have recently taken a bath even when it’s clear that they haven’t.

Your loved one will eventually reach a stage where your care will no longer be enough for them. At this point, you must consider placing them in a nursing home.

Incontinence in Seniors

This is another common issue that your aging parent will run into. This won’t affect the number of times they need to bathe.

However, you will need to help your loved one wash the parts of their skin which have gotten wet to avoid infections.

Using adult diapers will help you here, but be prepared to quickly wash and dry your senior parents. This is so they won’t have to spend too much time in their dirty diapers.

Feminine Hygiene for Seniors

Another health issue for seniors is urinary tract infections caused by incontinence. But practicing good hygiene will lessen the chances of this risk.

Feminine hygiene can be an embarrassing subject for older women, so remember to speak with your loved one about it, why it’s necessary, and what to expect.

Wash then dry your hands before you begin, regardless of whether you are washing or providing care to a senior.

Use a clean and soft washcloth to go over the area downward. Use a new washcloth if any soiling occurs.

After the process, wash your hands thoroughly using warm water and soap.

Importance of Personal Hygiene for the Elderly

Personal hygiene doesn’t stop at just keeping up appearances. Aside from not looking and feeling clean, poor hygiene has health implications.

Family caregivers or professional caregivers should remember to avoid these health issues in their loved ones or wards.

Forgetting to keep clean can cause skin infections in the elderly because of bacteria.

Not washing your hands and cooking utensils can also cause the elderly to get food poisoning. This may also extend to other family members in the house.

Helping the Elderly With Personal Hygiene

Here are some tips you could use to provide better home care to the senior citizens in your life.

1.) Communicate

Some older adults may fear losing control of their lives when you help them with their hygiene. It would be best if you had an honest conversation with them.

Explain to your family member that you’re helping them so that they can remain independent.

You and your loved one will have to compromise and change your ideas of what “remain independent” means. It will help both of you to think of it as better than assisted living.

Make sure they know you love them and try to improve their overall health.

2.) Call Their Doctor for Support

Consulting with a senior citizen’s doctor can help you provide them with personal care. For instance, their doctor can identify whether your loved one is suffering from depression or not.

If they determine the poor hygiene caused by depression, they can also see if a prescription for antidepressants will help your loved one improve.

An improved mood can cause your elderly parent to pay more attention to their personal care.

Both of your lives will be made easier if your loved one is willing to put in the work on their part to maintain good personal hygiene.

Their doctor can also cross out any other factors affecting your senior parent’s ability to care for themselves.

It may sound unfair to you, but this method relies on your loved one being more willing to listen to a professional’s medical advice instead of the nagging of their family members.

3.) Reframe the Issue

Differing positions of power might cause your struggle. If your senior citizen parent shuts you down because “You can’t boss me around,” you can level the playing field.

Call up one of your parent’s good friends and ask them to invite your senior parent to a get-together or a meal. Giving them a reason to look good might inspire them to accept a bit of personal care.

You could also use the idea of a reward to make your life easier. Seniors might perk up when you promise them a reward or a nice meal at the restaurant of their choice.

You could try another “trick” if your elderly parents used to love being pampered. Try calling bath time “spa days.”

After bathing them, make sure you use a nice body wash and their favorite lotion.

This will help your senior parents focus more on how pleasant the whole experience was and how great they feel after, as opposed to the bathing process itself.

4.) Be Kind When It Comes to Bathing

No one wants to be reminded to keep up their appearance because of the social stigma involved.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but some seniors might take it as a sign that they’re losing control of their life if you point out their hygiene issues.

Sometimes they just don’t notice, so be patient and kind when pointing out their body odor or stained clothing.

If you believe that they don’t care about their hygiene issues, ensure you don’t remind them too much because nagging won’t help your case.

It’s tough to see your senior parents let themselves go, but don’t let it show.

Many older adults grew up in times before daily bathing was common, so it wasn’t a habit of theirs until recently.

Now that they’re getting on in years, their old habits might be coming back.

5.) Remove Obstacles From Their Way

Your senior parents might not need your help with everything they do.

For example, maybe it’s tough for them to keep up with their laundry because it takes too much energy.

In this case, you can make their life easier by dropping by regularly to do their laundry for them.

If there’s anything that will make daily living harder for them, remove it to help them.

Why Do Some Elderly People End up With Poor Hygiene?

Several factors could cause many seniors to end up with hygiene issues. We’ll discuss them here.

1.) Fear and Shame

Many seniors have a fear of the bathroom. Most household accidents occur inside the bathroom, where people may slip or fall without family members there to help them.

This fear can keep them out of the bathroom, stopping them from keeping clean. You can ease their fears by making the bathroom a safer place. More on that below.

Shame is another possible cause.

Some seniors want to keep their dignity and independence, so needing help with bathing is embarrassing to them. Help your loved one take regular baths.

2.) Depression

One thing that could be causing your aging family member’s poor personal hygiene is depression caused by aches or the loss of friends and other loved ones.

If you notice your loved one losing interest in their favorite hobbies and pastimes, bring up your concerns with their doctor so that they can help treat it.

Depression is an issue that goes beyond hygiene. If treated, it’s likely to inspire a renewed interest in hygiene for elderly people.

3.) Waning Senses

Your nose might quickly pick up on body odor, but an older adult might not. It’s the same story with their eyesight, which will fade with age.

Their poor hygiene might just be caused by their senses getting weaker. Some seniors clean up less because they can no longer tell that they smell or see the stains on their clothing.

How to Give an Elderly Person a Shower

The aging process can make the idea of bathing frightening for elderly people. Here are a few steps you can take to help keep them clean and improve their quality of life.

1.) Remember to Relax

Keep the mood light and be calm when approaching the subject with your loved one. Showing distress or anxiety will make them feel the same way.

Also, ensure that you follow their regular bathing schedule. You need to accommodate their time, not yours.

This will help you and your loved one adjust to the process easier.

2.) Ask Which Steps They Need Help With

You can break down the bathing process into several steps and ask your loved ones which steps they need help with.

For instance, they might be able to rinse themselves just fine, but they can’t shampoo their hair independently. This is where you come in.

Some steps that they can do alone might be too embarrassing to do with you in the room. Step out and return when they call for you.

3.) Prepare Everything Beforehand

Before you help them with bathing, you need to ensure that they can shower safely. This means keeping the floor clear of obstructions and things that might slip on.

Any washcloths, soaps, conditioners and body wash that you’ll need should already be at hand for easy access.

You can also install safety features like grab bars in their bathrooms so that they will have extra support while bathing.

4.) Remember to Be Gentle

Seniors have much more sensitive skin than the average person, so their caregiver will have to adjust their bathing with this in mind.

Remember to use warm water instead of hot when helping your loved one bathe. When drying off your loved ones, wipe them gently.

Don’t towel them off vigorously. Use a clean towel to pat them dry instead.

Elderly Hygiene Products

Here are some things you can pick up to make bathing your loved one safer and easier.

1.) Grab Bars

Grab Bars

These will provide your loved ones with something to hold on to while bathe. The best grab bars are not suction-based, so have permanent ones installed instead.

2.) Hand-Held Shower Head

Hand-Held Shower Head

A hand-held showerhead is ideal if your loved one doesn’t want to feel constant water pressure while they bathe. Just turn it off and away when it’s not needed.

3.) Raised Toilet Seats

Raised Toilet Seats

Lowering oneself to sit on a toilet is an unpleasant experience for many seniors. Using a high toilet for seniors can help reduce their pain.

4.) Walk-in Bathtub

Walk-in Bathtub

Instead of climbing over and into a slippery bathtub, get your loved ones a walk-in bathtub to relax as they bathe. These come with seats for added comfort.

5.) Nonslip Bath Mats

Nonslip Bath Mats

Reduce your loved one’s risk of falling with a nonslip bath mat. These can go anywhere on the floor, plus you can find mold-resistant ones too.


If you have an elderly family member with poor personal hygiene, you shouldn’t look for a nursing home.

It’s very likely that they just need some assistance to get their life and hygiene back.

With gentle reminders and a few safety measures in their bathrooms, you can help them improve their hygiene and health!

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