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How to Talk to Aging Parents About Personal Hygiene

Have you noticed a decrease in your Mom or Dad’s level of hygiene?

Reflection of an older adult on a handheld mirrorAre they still wearing clothes they wore the day before – maybe even pants or a shirt that are visibly dirty?

Is your parent’s hair often messier than usual?

Is there discernible body odor where there wasn’t ever before?

As people age, some of the activities of daily living, like doing hair and makeup and even keeping up on laundry, can fall by the wayside. However, poor personal hygiene in older adults can also be a sign of a physical inability to complete everyday tasks or it can be a sign of something more serious, such as dementia, memory loss, or another cognitive issue.

For your loved one’s long-term health, it’s important to make a distinction between what they can improve on their own and what they may need more assistance with.

Once you learn what is going on, you can ensure they get any extra assistance they may need and determine if a higher level of care is necessary.

Use these 3 tips on how to talk to aging parents about personal hygiene.

1. Start With the “Why” Behind Your Parent’s Personal Hygiene Decline

It’s quite possible your Mom or Dad doesn’t even know there is an issue!

Maybe they let a particular hygiene activity go for a few days and before they realized, it was completely forgotten. Whether it was conscious, or they are aware of the issue, it’s important to approach the question carefully, as many seniors are fearful of losing their independence.

Using a calm, understanding voice, inform your loved one of the personal hygiene changes you have noticed. Don’t be accusatory or patronizing.

2. Explain the Importance of Good Personal Hygiene in Older Adults

Frame the discussion around the social expectations and importance of personal hygiene, again being careful to modulate your tone.

If body odor is part of the issue, it can prevent people from wanting to visit your loved one, possibly leading to social isolation, which can cause a number of other compounding issues.

Poor personal hygiene in older adults also has the potential to lead to skin irritation or infections, which can quickly snowball with those who are frail or have other underlying health problems.

3. Ask How You Can Help!

Does your loved one need an occasional reminder, more assistance with purchasing body care products, or do they just run out of time in the day?

Moving slower can lead people to have trouble accomplishing everything they set out to do each day. Or your loved one could be depressed or anxious and in need of some counseling or medication. It can be good to include their doctor in this discussion, as well, to address any medically treatable concerns that may come up.

Your loved one’s doctor will also know the right questions to ask in order to determine if your loved one is experiencing memory loss, dementia, or another cognitive issue. Together, you can determine if your loved one needs a higher level of assistance, such as home care, enhanced care, assisted living, or memory care.

Learn More About Your Care Options

Once you’ve talked to your aging parents about personal hygiene and you’ve determined they’d benefit from additional care or services, it’s time to look into your options.

Ebenezer makes the decision making process easy! We help you navigate your care options and find the best option for your loved one.

Learn more about your care options!