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How to Maintain Hygiene as a Senior

Maintaining proper hygiene is important for people of any age, but it can be especially crucial for seniors. Older adults often have weaker immune systems and this makes it more difficult to fight against germs and viruses. Our skin regulates temperature, excretes toxins through sweat, and defends us against infection. Unfortunately, many medications seniors take can make their skin more fragile and, in general, people’s skin becomes more sensitive as they age. Have a regular, carefully planned hygiene routine to stay healthy.


How often should seniors bathe?

It might surprise you to learn that while staying clean is essential, this doesn’t mean the more baths, the better. You shouldn’t even bathe every day. Too many baths or showers can make your skin dry and irritated. Washing up a few times a week is sufficient for most. However, certain medical conditions may require you to bathe more frequently than others. If you’re feeling signs of dementia, daily bathing might be useful so you feel a sense of routine. 

If you enjoy showers or baths, but find them difficult to take, there are several ways to help with this. Walk-in tubs make it easier to get in and out. Since these can be expensive, a cheaper alternative is to install hand bars by your tub or shower to help you get in and out. Handheld showerheads, when paired with a shower chair, allow you to sit while you shower and focus the pressure wherever it is needed most. 

Consider putting larger labels on shampoos, conditioners, and body washes if you struggle to see the fine print. It’s not necessary to have a bath or shower every time you bathe. It’s fine to sometimes just use a wet sponge or washcloth. Just make sure to wipe every area of your body and, if you use waterless cleansers or no-rinse shampoos, wipe after to avoid residue. On days you don’t bathe, make sure to still change into clean, fresh clothing. You’ll be more motivated to do this if you wear clothes that are easy to change.


How do I maintain hygiene when I have incontinence?

If you have incontinence, you’ll need to pay extra attention to your hygiene habits. Women, whether they have incontinence or not, should always wipe from the front to the back to prevent bacteria from getting in their urethras and causing an infection. All older adults should consider using moist wipes after bowel movements for more thorough cleaning. Clean your perineal area frequently.

It’s damaging to your skin, and can cause infections, to be wearing wet undergarments. If you have urinary accidents often, wearing incontinence pads or diapers can help keep you dry and clean. Make sure to change these products every couple of hours. You might also choose to apply a protective barrier cream to avoid skin irritation. 


How can seniors maintain oral health?

Oral health is extremely vital, but often overlooked. Of people aged 60 or older, around 75% only have some of their natural teeth and almost 23% of seniors aged 65-74 have severe gum disease. Poor oral hygiene affects your overall health and increases your chances for developing heart disease or diabetes. 

To improve your oral health, consider switching to an electric toothbrush that makes brushing easier and more effective. Avoid tobacco. It increases your chances of throat cancer as well as oral fungal infections. Try to limit alcohol. Besides increasing your chance of developing oral cancer, the sugar damages your teeth and causes cavities. Visit a dentist annually for cleanings and a consultation.


What other hygiene habits should seniors keep in mind?

Remember to keep fingernails and toenails clipped and clean. This area of hygiene is often overlooked. On the minor scale of problems, you might scratch yourself with long or jagged nails. More seriously, not maintaining your nails can lead to painful infections. As you age, your hair tends to get thinner. Getting your hair cut shorter makes it look thicker, while simultaneously making it easier to manage. How often you wash your hair will depend on the thickness. Washing hair too often strips it of natural oils, but very thin hair gets oily fast needs to be cleaned more frequently. On occasion, feel free to treat yourself and have a professional wash and dry your hair.Proper hygiene should be a priority at any age, but especially as an older adult. Good hygiene helps keep you healthy. Be honest with yourself about whether you are able to handle all aspects of hygiene yourself or if you could use assistance. Get into a consistent routine for maintaining hygiene and your body will thank you.