For one reason or another, some aging in place seniors struggle with personal hygiene issues like uncleanliness, dirty clothing and body odor. But that poor hygiene places them at risk for social isolation, skin infections and gastroenteritis.

Due to factors like dementia, depression and pride, many elderly persons who don’t practice proper personal hygiene also refuse to accept help from family members. If you’re currently faced with this dilemma, here’s how to convince your loved one to say “yes” to some personal hygiene assistance.

What Should I Look for?

Everyone has their own perspective on what good hygiene looks like, but most would agree that signs of poor hygiene habits in the elderly include:

  • Long, dirty fingernails
  • Unpleasant body odor
  • Unkept hair, including facial hair
  • Stained and ragged clothing
  • Skin with a greasy and dirty appearance
  • Not washing their hands after toileting

In addition to physical warning signs, look for these around your senior’s home:

  • Lingering furniture and carpeting stains
  • Living space is messy and untidy
  • Stacks of dirty dishes in the sink
  • Garbage isn’t getting thrown out

If this sounds like your loved one, their poor hygiene habits could lead to a serious illness that requires hospitalization and threatens their independence.

How Can I Help?

Poor mobility, medication side effects and a fear of falling can all interfere with good hygiene habits. The first step to identify what’s causing your loved one’s poor hygiene and then to respectfully discuss with them how you’d like to help. Based on the root cause, here are some hygiene tips that might be useful:

Make the Bathroom Safer

The bathroom can be a very intimidating space for seniors, including yours. Create a safer environment by:

  • Adding grab bars in the shower and around the toilet
  • Improving the lighting in the room
  • Installing a hand-held shower nozzle
  • Getting them a shower seat
  • Putting a non-skid mat or decals in the tub

Respect Their Privacy

Most seniors feel embarrassed about being naked around another person who’s bathing them, especially when it’s one of their own children. To put your loved one at ease, try this:

  • Close the curtains, blinds and door.
  • Speak to them in a tone that’s patient and reassuring.
  • Cover their body with a towel or blanket while they are getting undressed.
  • Let them bathe as much as possible and only help-out when it’s necessary.

Establish a Routine

Many older people like to have a routine, notably those wit