When it comes to taking care of older people, unexpectedly frequent challenges may be found in the area of cleanliness. If you want to be successful in convincing an elderly person to take frequent showers and wear clean clothing, the easiest method to do it is to first figure out why their previous washing routines have altered. There is a wide range of probable perpetrators, and in many cases, a number of elements are brought together to create a perfect storm of unsanitary conditions.

In the best-case scenario, inadequate hygiene will result in a little body odour as well as an untidy look. Changes in bathing routines that are too drastic, on the other hand, might verge on self-neglect, have an impact on a senior’s social life (and, by implication, their quality of life), and even put their health in jeopardy. It may be a source of frustration for family caregivers to attempt to persuade their elderly loved ones to bathe more often. While the answer seems to be straightforward, there is sometimes more to the situation than meets the naked eye.

Why Don’t Older People Seem to Desire to Take a Bath?


If a loved one who used to apply cosmetics, bathe frequently, or insist on crisply ironed clothing suddenly stops taking care of oneself, it’s essential to rule out depression first. A quick visit to the doctor for a checkup is recommended, particularly in the case where a loss of interest or low levels of energy seem to be contributing factors in this shift in behaviour. It’s important to be aware of the warning symptoms of depression since the condition isn’t often visible to onlookers.

Honour and Self-Regulation

People have the common experience of feeling as if they are losing control of their lives as they become older. When it comes to their own personal hygiene, older citizens have a tendency to maintain a firm grasp on it for as long as they possibly can. There is no limit to the amount of nagging that may be done by caregivers and family members; nevertheless, the more you badger someone about something, the more resistance they are likely to put up. It’s possible that they’ll respond with something along the lines of, “This younger generation is attempting to take over everything.” Well, they aren’t instructing me when to shower, that’s for sure!”

Dulling Senses

Urine, old perspiration, and faeces may be aromas that are readily detected by your nose, but it’s possible that older people are completely oblivious to the offensive smells. They are particularly “nose blind” to their own scent as well as the smell of their house. This is due to the fact that their senses are not quite as sharp as they used to be. One’s senses, particularly their sense of smell, become less acute as a natural consequence of the ageing process. Because it is harder for elderly people to detect the telltale smell of body odour or see stains on their clothing that indicate it is time for a wash-up and a load of laundry, many elderly people begin to take fewer showers and change their clothes less frequently. This is because it is harder for elderly people to notice the telltale smell of body odour.


Regrettably, the days of many elderly people do not include as many different activities as they had when they were younger. If there is nothing that makes Wednesday stand out from the other days of the week, then it may as well be Tuesday or Thursday. It is fairly uncommon for people to simply lose track of time and be unaware of how much time has passed since the last time they washed as a result. (This is made worse by the fact that true memory loss may occur, but more on that in a bit.) In addition, if you don’t have any guests coming over or an activity planned for the near future, there aren’t many purposes in making the effort to get dressed up if you’re simply going to be lounging about the house.

Concern and apprehension

The restroom is a potentially terrifying environment for many people who are over the age of 65. After all, it is completely made up of smooth, hard, and often uniformly coloured surfaces, making it the ideal environment for a slip and fall. They used to go through the motions of taking a shower or a bath as a normal part of their routine and not give it a second thought. Today, even something as simple as this comes with major dangers. Everyone who is considering getting into the tub should think twice before doing so because of the risk of injuring themselves in some way, whether it be temporarily or permanently.

Discomfort is also another extremely typical contributing factor. The elderly are far more susceptible to getting a cold. It’s possible that they become tired easily and that they no longer have the same feeling of balance or range of motion as they previously had. When someone has to assist another person in bathing, that person’s dignity is diminished. Because of their joint discomfort and decreased energy levels, everyday things like doing the laundry and changing clothing may become a significant burden for those with arthritis.

According to the findings of one research article that was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, “some participants restricted their mode or frequency of bathing in anticipation of future disability rather than seeking out and implementing strategies to maintain or enhance their full bathing ability.” In essence, these elderly people altered their methods of maintaining personal cleanliness due to the anticipation and anxiety of an impairment that hadn’t even taken place yet!

In addition, the ways in which elderly people alter the methods in which they have traditionally bathed may not always correlate to excellent or even appropriate levels of personal cleanliness. A secondary concern of losing independence and dignity leads many elderly people to rely on temporary solutions that are not meant to replace a normal bath or shower, such as washing themselves in the sink, using baby wipes, and other similar methods. Although negative expectations regarding ageing and functional decline are to blame in these instances, seniors’ inadequate adaptations and reluctance to accept help may actually create a self-fulfilling prophecy regarding the age-related decline and bathing disability in particular. Despite the fact that these factors are to blame, seniors’ insufficient adaptations and reluctance to accept help may actually create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Cognitive Impairment

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are characterized by a wide variety of symptoms, one of the most prevalent of which is a decline in personal cleanliness. It might seem next to impossible to convince a stubborn elderly person who still has all of their faculties to take a shower; conversely, encouraging dementia sufferers to shower can be a challenge in and of itself. Depression, challenging behavioural changes, sensitivity to stimuli, and/or difficulty to keep track of time may often accompany conditions that cause cognitive impairment. When all of these factors come together, a loved one may refuse to bathe or erroneously believe that they have been washing their body for days, weeks, or even months on end when in fact they have not.

The symptoms of fear and discomfort are often exaggerated in those who have dementia. If someone you care about is being splashed with water, they can panic or be confused about why it’s happening. They can have a hallucination that the shower drain is about to swallow them up. Dementia sufferers just do not grasp what it is that you are attempting to “do to them” when it comes to taking a bath. It is possible for the event to be upsetting for all those concerned.

In addition, taking a shower every day is something that’s taken for granted in our nation, but when our parents and grandparents were young, a bath once a week was probably the norm. Your loved one undoubtedly started taking longer, more often showers as they became more well-known, but if they’ve suffered a brain injury, it’s possible that their previous routines may start to creep back into their life. It is difficult for dementia patients to really stay to this plan when they are unable to recollect when their most recent bath day was since a weekly shower may seem like a luxury to some caregivers, but it is difficult for dementia patients to remember when their most recent bath day was.

The Perspective of a Caregiver on the Hygiene Concerns of the Elderly

Although my wife’s mother was still able to live on her own in her apartment, she started losing track of time and forgetting to do things like take baths and change clothing. She would look me in the eye and insist that she had done it because she was certain that she was telling the truth. Her memory problems were likely to blame for some of this. She reasoned that she must have showered at some time in the recent past, so she lied and said that she had. Fear, on the other hand, was definitely a factor in my opinion.

It was difficult to find a solution to this issue that could really be implemented. Even given the time period in which she lived, my mother-in-law was an extraordinarily humble lady. I was aware of the fact that she did not want a member of the family to assist her in bathing since she felt that it was too personal. As a result, we came to the conclusion that it would be best to engage a qualified caregiver from an in-home care business to visit her apartment on a regular basis and give her a bath.

The first time she went to the bathhouse, she only grudgingly allowed “the girl” to shower her. I remained in the apartment, but I waited in a different room so that I could assist put her mind at rest. The next time my mother-in-law had her bath, a new bathing assistant came to help her, and she flatly refused to allow this lady inside the home. She closed the door in his face, and that was the end of it. From that point on, the number of baths taken was hit or miss. On some days, she would give in, but on other days, she would categorically reject.

Her uneasiness is very comprehensible and makes perfect sense. I am not comfortable with the idea of having a complete stranger come to my house to wash me, particularly if it is a different person every time. But, carers need to take action in order to assist the individuals they care for in maintaining their personal hygiene. The consequences for one’s health of failing to do so may be significant. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and unpleasant skin disorders may be significant barriers to an elderly family member’s quality of life.

How to Encourage an Older Person to Take a Bath and Dress Tidily

After you’ve determined why a loved one isn’t taking adequate care of oneself, you may next attempt one of many various techniques to help them change their behaviour. It will need some experimentation on both of your parts before you can determine what works best for the two of you, but it is very necessary that you put in the necessary time and effort.

Make Use of Their Physician as a Resource.

A strong ally may be found in the form of a loved one’s physician in certain circumstances. For instance, a physician may decide whether or not the individual is depressed and whether or not antidepressants may help boost their spirits, give them more energy, and assist in resolving the problem of inadequate self-care. A senior who has taken a new interest in life could become more conscious of the need (or desire) to take a shower or bath and dress in clean clothing.

In addition, medical practitioners are able to rule out other issues that may be limiting a patient’s capacity or desire to care for oneself and may provide recommendations for the next measures to take. Bear in mind that our ageing population tends to accord high regard to medical professionals and may see the “official” suggestions of a physician as more credible than the begging and nagging of a family member.

Conquer the Power Struggle Caused by Your Inadequate Hygiene.

A small bit of deception, even if it is done with the best of intentions, might be useful if you find yourself in a power struggle with an elderly person who refuses to be “bossed about.” Try to get a close friend to give you a call so that you may extend an invitation to go out to lunch or to any other event that demands a little bit of preening. When it comes to getting things in order, it helps to have the motive to do so that is not related to one’s family. The use of bribes may be seen as immature by some, but the assurance of a unique reward, like a meal at their go-to eatery on the night of their weekly bath day, may also be a very effective motivator.

Use the Appropriate Bathing Aids and Items to Get the Highest Possible Level of Comfort

Bathing aids and goods created specifically for older citizens have the potential to be a game-changer as well. There are many different kinds of shower chairs available, for instance, which might be helpful if you are still able to help a loved one take a shower but they have trouble staying firm on their feet or become tired rapidly. Everyone who is becoming older should consider making this option since it may considerably reduce the danger of falling while they are in the shower or bathtub.

When showering a loved one who is anxious about or feels overwhelmed by water, it may be helpful to utilize a shower head that can be held in one’s hand. It gives them (or an assistant) the ability to control the stream just where and when they want it to go.

Grip bars are an additional safety feature that is essential for those who are frightened of falling. Merely providing a senior with more points of support throughout the process of entering and exiting the shower might make them feel more secure and independent.

Good framing of the conversation around hygiene

The manner in which you discuss taking a shower and switching outfits might have a significant impact. It could be helpful to refer to bath time as “spa days” if the person you care for needs assistance while showering and once liked being pampered. Make use of a fragrant body wash and their preferred lotion afterwards to direct their attention away from the procedure itself and onto the fun elements and the way they will feel when it is complete.

When pointing out body odour or unclean clothes, do it in a compassionate manner. In other instances, an elderly person may just be unaware of the situation, and it is possible that they may feel humiliated if it is brought to their attention. Remember that excessive nagging is still unproductive, even if the problem is apathy, and keep in mind that you should avoid doing it. Caregivers are often beyond disappointed by the disinterest shown by their loved ones about their personal looks; nonetheless, they do their best not to let this frustration show.

The use of positive reinforcement may be beneficial, despite the fact that it might not be effective for everyone. Compliment an elderly person abundantly on the off chance that you succeed in persuading them to do anything as unusual as wash their cat or put on a clean shirt. Inform them that they have a pleasant aroma and that they seem really polished. Most elderly appreciate receiving attention. Again, this may seem like an easy concept, but it is really vital to praise good conduct, even for very few victories.

While interacting with loved ones who are suffering from dementia, tread carefully.

Care for someone suffering from dementia is unlike any other kind of caring. Beyond that, it is specific to the family in question. When it comes to washing and dressing, some patients just need reminders and prodding, while other patients may get agitated or belligerent at the mere suggestion of a shower. In addition, one can never predict when a new habit or fear would emerge or fade. When it comes to encouraging dementia sufferers to take showers, it is important to go carefully and softly. In addition, I suggest arranging challenging activities, such as getting a bath, around the time of day when they are the most cooperative.

You shouldn’t urge them to take a complete shower or bath and change their clothes all at once. It could be simpler for the two of you if you divided a job up into many smaller tasks and spread them out over a longer period of time. Start out by simply asking your loved one to wipe their face with a tissue. If they are receptive, begin by cleaning their upper arms, and then go on to other areas of their body, all the while conversing with them and explaining what you are doing as you go along. If they are not responsive, begin by washing their upper arms. Maintain your calm. If they put up a struggle or demand that it be stopped, then it must be. You always have the option to try again later. These quick fixes may be used as a bridge between longer showers or baths when you don’t have time.

Employ a Spa Attendant to Assist You.

These bathing visits are a godsend for many families, which is a testament to the fact that employing a personal care attendant to assist my mother-in-law in taking a shower was not entirely effective. The vast majority of elderly people are initially completely against the concept, but for others, the prospect of having a complete stranger help them is less humiliating than the prospect of having a son or daughter do it. Also, in-home carers get training to assist persons of varying levels of physical and mental capability in their daily lives. They are able to complete a shower or bath installation at a client’s home in a prompt, comprehensive, and professional manner, all the while keeping the customer’s comfort in mind. It is true that some home care businesses are better than others at constantly sending the same bath aides; this is one of the reasons why it is crucial to complete your homework before selecting a home care company.

Think About Your Choices for Long-Term Care.

The health of my husband’s mother deteriorated with time, and as a result, she started neglecting her other personal care responsibilities in addition to taking baths. Despite the fact that my family did all in our power to take care of mom, the reality remained that she was no longer able to live on her own. It was a stroke of luck that we found a vacant room in a nursing facility in the area, where she ended up doing rather well. The caregivers and the regimen that she had been assigned helped my husband’s mother feel more at ease. Interestingly, taking a bath was never a challenge again after that.

Many family members who provide care for loved ones eventually have to come to terms with the reality that their ailing family members or friends are not going to recover their former mental or physical capacities. It is possible that it will become risky for them to continue living on their own, or it may be an unreasonable expectation to believe that one or even two individuals can fulfil their growing need for direct care and monitoring of their activities. The decision to place an elderly person in an assisted living community, memory care unit, or nursing home may be challenging; nonetheless, many elderly people do well in these types of settings. In the same way that a loved one may be more compliant with their doctor or a professional caregiver compared to a family member, the staff at a senior living facility may be more successful when it comes to encouraging proper hygiene, getting them to eat, administering medications without hassle, and other similar activities.

The ability to make concessions is the secret to improved hygiene for seniors.

Compromise is required in many different situations while providing care, and the problem of cleanliness is only one of them. When it comes to cleaning, the important thing to keep in mind is that you may have to decrease your expectations. Especially if you and the person you care about life together, it will undoubtedly be a challenging and unwelcome adjustment for both of you.

Both providing care and becoming older are unglamorous experiences, and there are certain changes, like incontinence, that both parties just need to learn to cope with in the most effective way possible. Do not anticipate or demand that everything will look perfect. It’s not practical, and doing so will simply make things more frustrating for you and tense between the two of you. It might be humiliating to accompany a loved one to an appointment at the doctor’s office or on a trip when they are untidy and smell unclean; yet, you should do your best to encourage and assist your loved one in looking great and being clean. If your present strategy is not producing the desired results, it is time to think about trying something else.


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Are you looking for compassionate and reliable home care services in Orange, Osceola, Brevard, or Seminole counties? Look no further than our professional team at Embracing Home Care! Our highly trained caregivers provide personalized care for seniors and individuals with disabilities, ensuring that they can continue to live independently in the comfort of their own homes. With a variety of services including personal care, transportation, meal preparation, and companionship, we strive to improve the quality of life for our clients and provide peace of mind for their families. Contact us today at 321-758-2036 to learn more about our affordable and flexible home care options and to schedule a consultation with one of our care coordinators. Let us help you or your loved one live life to the fullest!  We serve Central Florida cities like Orlando, Apopka, Ocoee, Winter Garden, Sanford, Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Palm Bay, Melbourne, Titusville, Kissimmee, St.  Cloud, Celebration, Lake Mary, Oviedo, Longwood, Winter Springs, Cocoa Beach and more.

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