Personal hygiene

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Personal hygiene of the elderly person includes washing his or her skin, hair, mouth and teeth, ears, nails and the genital and anal area.

It may be difficult and complicated to carry out a complete hygiene routine every day (particularly if there is no home help), so at the very least the face, hands, genital and anal areas should be washed.

When washing someone, a good dose of patience and a positive attitude are important, as it is important to understand that it is a violent situation for the person being washed.

People attach great importance to their image, so looking after their hair properly will boost self-esteem and lift their mood. Special washbowls can be bought for people who are completely bedridden.

Good nail hygiene is very important, as dirty nails can lead to serious infections, particularly in diabetic patients.

In people with reduced mobility, and depending on their weight and the difficulty that they have in reaching the bathroom, it may be most appropriate to carry out hygiene procedures in bed to prevent the risk of falling.

If the person can be moved to the bath or shower:

  • Explain what is going to happen at all times
  • Help with and show how to use the various wash utensils properly
  • Ensure conditions are right (lighting, cleanliness, accessibility, comfort, temperature, neutral gels, shampoos that are kind to the skin, etc.)
  • Maintain the person’s autonomy and only help if needed
  • Create routines, as this makes it easier to associate certain events with wash time
  • Respect the person’s intimacy, and keep the bathroom door closed while helping your relative wash
  • Make all necessary adaptations: remove barriers, adapt the toilet and the washbasin, change the bath for a shower tray, add handles, install non-slip flooring or elements, remove latches, etc.
  • If possible, use a seat with an opening to help with genital hygiene. If such a seat is not available, a plastic chair can be used, and the person can be asked to remain standing for the time it takes to wash the genital and anal area
  • Use neutral soap and avoid using alcohol and talcum powders

Bedridden elderly dependent

For elderly people whose mobility prevents them from getting out of bed, they should be given a full wash in bed. The same steps should be taken as in the previous case (close windows, maintain privacy, etc.) and if continent they should be offered the bedpan before proceeding.

  • Prepare the various items: two washbowls, two sponges (one for the genital area and one of the rest of the body), water, neutral soap, sheets, towels, jug. Also: oral hygiene items
  • Explain what is going to happen at all times, and how it will be done. Communication with the person you are washing is very important
  • If necessary, be prepared for a nappy change

How to dress a dependent person

Depending on the degree of dependency, the individual will need partial or full help with getting dressed. For greater comfort, it is advisable to choose loose, comfortable clothing with zips, elasticated waist or clasps that are easy to open and close, and keeping buttons and Velcro to a minimum.

To help with the process of dressing and stimulating the person’s capacity for independence, give garments one by one, in the same order as needed to get dressed. Remove dirty clothing from the room, and do not argue if he or she insists on wearing the same clothes again. It is practical to have clothes that combine easily.

Avoid shoes with laces, and we recommend shoes that cover the foot. Do not use footwear such as flip-flops or clogs.

If the person is washed and dressed, you will both feel much better.

Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 20 February 2018

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