We all have a basic need to be hygienic throughout our life. The elderly can find it a harder task when reaching later life. It can be hard for the elderly to maintain this hygiene because the body becomes weaker as we age.
You may decide that you want to take care of your elderly parents or your relatives when they reach a certain age. You also have other options such as the use of nursing homes. This is an option that you can decide on. The elderly have a need to feel clean all the time.
An elderly person who gets proper hygiene will be comfortable. An elderly person who is not able to care for themselves will feel uncomfortable. Some elderly people will only make the effort to dress up and clean up when they are meeting other people.
Hygiene requirements that the elderly need to receive are as follows:
● Hand washing
● Bath care
● Nail and foot care
● Mouth and oral care which includes dentures
● Hair care
● Skin relief
Why is Bathing Important ?
The person who cares for the elderly needs to know the different types of bathing that can be done. The following are typical types:
● Bed Bath
People need to bathe because it will have the ability to cleanse the skin and get rid of dead skin cells. The blood circulation of an elderly person also improves with bathing which can help with relaxation. Quite often assistance is required for the elderly if they are permitted. A carer can be employed to help with this. They will be in charge of providing assistance so that the elderly are safe and will not fall or have an accident.
Bathing tips to remember
The carer should always explain what is planned for the elderly person so that the elderly will not feel uncomfortable about the whole ordeal. Here are some tips that can make bathing ideal for the elderly:
1. Safety should always be put first – The wet surface of the bathroom floor can be slippery. One wrong move and the elderly may end up on the floor. When having a shower the carer should place a non-slip mat on the floor of the shower tray which will make the floor less slippery.
1. Always check the water temperature – The water temperature is crucial to the elderly’s comfort while bathing. Take note that some older people will already be confused with the hot and cold taps. You need to make sure that the temperature is perfect for the elderly. The carer should check the temperature of the bath water or shower by hand and also ask the bather if it is comfortable for their needs.
2. Do not make sudden movements – The carer may sometimes make sudden movements that may surprise the elderly and may cause accidents. A carer can also encourage the elderly to remain calm the whole time.
3. Check the mobility of the elderly – How much can they move? Will they be able to move going to the bathroom without any help? Will they need help with washing ? There are some elderly people who just need to be watched while they are bathing while others need to be helped in doing the different movements that will improve the person’s hygiene.
4. You must always speak slowly and clearly – The carer should remember that talking with the elderly can be different from usual. There is a need to speak in a clearer manner. The carer should also specify the next thing to be done so that everyone knows what to do next.
5. The carer must allow enough time for bathing – It is not ideal that elderly people will be rushed while they are bathing. When the elderly are rushed, they can feel anxious about bath time and may not want to bathe again.
Bath aids available
The elderly need more help when using the bathroom. Here are some items that will make this possible.
● A bath lift chair can be ideal when you need to lower and lift the elderly to and from the bottom of the bath. You can carefully place the elderly on the lift chair and it can lower and lift at the press of a button. A bath lift chair can be either battery or mains operated and is usually inflatable or a solid chair. You will need to have a demonstration in the users bathroom to compare the different options available and then choose which one works best.
● A grab rail can be placed on the walls of the bath or shower area so that the elderly can hold on and steady themselves while bathing. Assistance from a carer can sometimes be required.
Getting to the bathroom if there are stairs
In some houses the elderly are unable to reach the bathroom easily as it can often be on first or second floor.
In this case a stair lift can be installed so that it can be reached quickly and safely.
There are many other bath aids that you would need to have so that bathing can be safer for the elderly. You can research the different items available and decide if they should be installed in the person’s home.
Bed bath for the elderly
The above mentioned tips are more applicable for an elderly person who is mobile enough to go to the bathroom. How can an elderly person who cannot move that much get the proper hygiene that is required ?
There are a few things to remember:
Prepare plenty of warm water in a suitable container with clean flannels.
Use hygienic cleaning products that are easy to rinse. Use soaps that will not leave any residue which can make the elderly person feel sticky and uncomfortable especially if they have a skin condition.
If the person needs to shampoo, make sure that you use mild baby shampoos because this is the type that is the easiest to rinse. Take note that there are some elderly people who do not require shampooing every time they have to take a bed bath.
Make sure that you will have enough towels and washcloths available. The elderly may get cold very easily so they have to be dried at the soonest opportunity. These towels and washcloths should be close to the bed so you can access them immediately.
This is the process that you will follow when you are about to provide a bed bath for the elderly:
1. Place two bath towels underneath the elderly person. You may assist the elderly in sitting up. If the person cannot move at all, you need to take extra precaution in moving the elderly to place the two bath towels. The elderly should be lifted on one side and carefully assisted while the towels are put in place.
2. Cover the person with a warm towel in order to prevent them from getting cold. At the same time, this can provide the privacy that the patient needs. It is important to have the room at the correct temperature so that they do not get a chill.
3. Remove the patients clothes carefully. As a carer, you should have short nails so that the possibility of you scratching the elderly will be less likely. You should also keep the patient as covered as possible. This can be embarrassing for some people so it is best that you work quickly. You can also state your purpose so you can do your tasks immediately.
4. You need to use the cleaning and rinsing method for all parts of the body. You can apply a soapy water solution to the person’s arms, chest, trunk, back, and the rest of the body. Rinse away the soap on the different parts of the body where this has applied. It is very likely that you would be replacing the water in the basins. You need to do this as efficiently as possible.
5. You can also wash the person’s face very carefully. Do not place soap near the eyes as this can be very uncomfortable especially if the soap enters the eye. This can be very painful for the elderly. The cleansed area should be dried carefully with a face towel.
6. If the patient would need to be shampooed, you need to have a shampoo basin. You may need some training for this so you can do it immediately. Water can be poured over the patient’s head. Make sure that you will not get any water and shampoo on the elderly’s eyes. Apply the shampoo, massage the scalp and then rinse. Pat dry with a towel.
7. Wash the elderly persons shoulders and arms. You need to dry the skin completely especially the underarm area. If it is left moist, it can be a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. The moment that you have dried the person completely, you can cover the person with a robe. This will be effective in keeping the elderly person warm.
8. You should wash the persons torso. A towel can be folded in order to expose the waist area. Then the various areas of the torso should be cleaned thoroughly. If the elderly person has some folds on the skin, you need to wash carefully. You can then rinse and dry after. Once again, dry these areas very well because moist areas might become a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. Put the robe on again to keep the elderly person warm.
9. The elderly’s legs should be washed next. Wash one leg, soap, rinse, and dry carefully up to the foot. Then carefully do the same with the other leg. After washing, rinsing, and drying both legs, that is the time when you can place a blanket on the person’s legs.
Washing the back and genitals
Take note that it will be tricky to wash the person’s back and genital area but this is necessary to ensure that the person is thoroughly clean. Make sure that you have clean water in your wash basins. If the elderly person is able to roll towards the side, ask them to do so. If not, you will need to assist them. Do the same process that you have done with the rest of the body. This means that you need to wash, soap, rinse, and dry properly.
You can lift the elderly persons leg while they are lying down. You can start from the front side going towards the back. There will be slight differences on how you are going to clean depending on the person’s gender. One thing to remember: you need to keep the genitals of the patient clean every day. This means that you have to do this process every day even if you are not going to provide a full-body bath.
Extra grooming tips for the elderly
Grooming for your elderly loved one can be a bit tricky because they don’t want to feel that they cannot do things on their own anymore. Generally they want to maintain their independent living and you need to remember the wishes that they have asked you for. Try to fulfill those requests and help them keep clean and hygienic.
● Be sensitive about what the person wants. If the person would like to have moisturiser, then make sure to use the right lotion depending on the elderly’s skin. There are some moisturisers that are made specifically for this purpose.
● Find clothes that are comfortable to wear. The elderly should be able to put on and remove the clothes easily and not restrict their movement.
● Encourage the elderly to sit down while getting dressed. It will make the process far easier and much safer. You can guide the person to wear the clothes one by one with ease.
● Make sure that you follow a process when dressing the elderly. You can prepare all of the clothes that the person needs to wear so that they can be dressed appropriately.
● Make sure that the elderly person gets a regular haircut. The elderly still need to be trimmed and groomed from time to time.
With all of these things in mind, you can keep the elderly clean and hygienic at all times.
Nursing homes can provide the care that the elderly need but if you want to do things on your own, you can follow all of the tips mentioned above.
Of course many people wish to stay in their own homes therefore bath lifts and stair lifts can help to give the independence and safety that is required for them to achieve that goal.