It’s a sensitive subject. Your Dad has a bit of an odor. Or, he is unshaven and unkempt. Perhaps you notice he’s in the same clothes for days and realize he can’t be showering. Now, how are you even going to bring this up? And, what can you do to be sure Dad is clean, healthy, and comfortable? We know it’s awkward, but fortunately it’s an issue we’ve tackled nearly every day in our 20+ years helping elders. So, today our personal hygiene pros will share their unique approach to helping your elderly parent shower more often.
Elderly Showering Problems: What’s the Cause?
The first step is to understand what’s causing Dad not to shower. We can’t approach this problem in a reprimanding way. Don’t treat Dad like our child and simply tell him “you have to take a bath”.
It is likely some of the common elderly showering problems have caused him to reduce (or stop--eek!) showering. First, Dad may be weak, tired, or have pain that makes showering difficult. He may find he gets exhausted completing his hygiene, and therefore just can’t do it often. Or, Dad may have even experienced accidents. Seniors frequently slip and fall in the bathroom. If he fell or even came close to falling, fear may be keeping him from showering. And, rightly so. But, if you don’t find out what’s going on you’ll never know this or be able to solve his elderly showering problems.
Another possible cause that Dad likely won’t easily admit is memory issues. For example, Dad may be having difficulty keeping track of when he last showered. Or, the steps to perform his hygiene routine may be overwhelming. That may seem difficult for you or I to imagine as we probably do it by rote. However, for someone with cognitive impairment, it can be hard to do daily tasks with multiple steps without prompting. He may have gone to take a shower and then forgotten his towel or robe and ended up dripping wet and freezing. Therefore, he may develop a sense of anxiety around showering.
How to Approach Elderly Showering Problems with Sensitivity
Of course, the big question is how to find out what issues Dad is experiencing. Occasionally, asking point blank and expressing your concern might work. But, in many cases, Dad will deny there’s a problem or get defensive. Or, he may admit to some small issues but avoid admitting what’s really going on...and sometimes he may not even know. So, what to do?
First of all, we’re here to help! Our care managers have tons of experience with this and would be glad to consult with you or work directly with you and Dad. These are the types of issues we frequently field for our On-Demand Care Coaching clients, offering pointers and resources. Click below to send us a message and set up a time to talk or call us anytime at 727-475-1973.
Remember this is a sensitive issue and none of us like someone telling us we’re unclean. We’ve discussed how important the approach is in our articles How Can I Stop Dad from Lying to Me About His Health? and Five Ways to Talk to Your Elderly Parents About Getting Help at Home. As much as we simply want to fix the problem, we need to take a slow, steady approach and listen and observe.
Many times, a care management assessment will help you to both understand the underlying elderly showering problems and find successful solutions. There are simple ways to make the environment more comfortable for showering, take away fall risks, and address difficulties. We’ll share some of these in our unique approach below. But it is also important to understand the individual’s challenges to identify what will actually help.
Elderly Showering Solutions: Comfortable, Safe Personal Hygiene
Here are some of the key elements to our pros’ unique elderly showering approach.
We have to give elders confidence in the showering experience. As mentioned, they’ve often developed fear and anxiety around showering. This may be due to falls or near falls, or even hearing about friends who fell in the bathroom and then had to go to a nursing home. Dad might feel unsteady or have had times he felt faint in the shower. Perhaps he can’t reach things and splashes a lot of water, leaving the floor wet and slick.
By addressing the environment and underlying issues, we can give Dad back the experience of having a pleasant, safe shower. Or, it may be that Dad needs physical assistance to give him back this confidence. To you and I it may seem hard to think about having someone help with this intimate activity, but it might truly give Dad back his dignity. We hear this from clients all the time. They have such a positive experience with our care team helping them and they feel relieved to be clean and refreshed.
Set Up for Success
Have the room set up properly. Of course, this means having a safe, navigable environment which may include things like a shower chair, grab bars, and anti-slip mats/strips in the shower.
But, it’s also making the environment comfortable. For example, we make sure to think about the air temperature and how the air may be blowing on the person getting out of the shower. Our care team always prepares by being sure all the items needed are within reach. There’s nothing worse than having to get out of the shower cold and wet to get something you forgot. And, nothing potentially more dangerous! Our caregivers make sure to have several towels and the client’s robe nearby. We never want a client to be cold.
A shower or bath is practical but it can also be a treat. We make sure the client is warm and comfortable at all times. Sometimes our caregivers will suggest/discover little things to make the experience better. Perhaps a client really misses the smell of an old soap or lotion they used to use. Or, they’ll notice a client likes a certain candle or smell in their home and find something with a similar scent. Maybe they need a softer washcloth or fluffier towels. Our approach combines utilitarian elderly showering solutions with overall experience design.
And, of course, with the right set up and assistance, the bathing experience doesn’t have to be painful for those with physical challenges...it should actually be pain relieving. With this unique approach, Dad will look forward to his showers again.