Tips to Assist Your Loved One with Daily Dressing and Grooming

Personal care routines are central to an older adult’s well-being, happiness and independence.

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Posted in , Feb 11, 2022

Woman helping aging man button a cardigan; Getty Images

Julie Hayes is the Content Manager at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging.

The responsibilities of caregiving can run the gamut from navigating chronic conditions, illnesses and emergency situations to helping meet the most basic of personal needs. As important as it is to tackle the big challenges, keep in mind that day-to-day personal care routines are central to your loved one’s health and well-being. When you help an older adult to keep up with regular bathing, dressing and oral hygiene, you do much to boost his or her happiness and to keep life on an even keel. Grooming and hygiene are also building blocks of confidence, which your loved one needs to head into each day. On top of this, your loved one can better maintain independence by participating to the degree possible in his or her own personal care routines.

The following tips can help you to assist your loved one in maintaining daily personal care:

Showering or bathing

  • According to the CDC, one in four older adults will experience a fall every year, and over half of these falls will take place at home. Because it can be so slippery, the bathroom is among the most risky spots in the home for your loved one. You can reduce fall risks by ensuring that the tub or shower is safer for your loved one’s balance and movement limitations. It’s also important to keep rugs or other potential tripping hazards off of bathroom floors. You may want to install grab bars and buy a shower seat to further reduce risks.
  • For hair washing, try a spray hose, which may be simpler to handle than the typical showerhead.
  • Pay attention to water temperature for bathing or showering. Older adults can easily get scalded or dizzy when water temperature is too high, and water that is too cold can disrupt blood flow. The safest range is from 98 to 100 degrees.
  • Whenever it’s safely possible, respect your loved one’s privacy wishes. He or she may feel strongly about being covered up when bathing or about when to have you there. Take these feelings to heart and always come from a place of respect.
  • Let your loved one perform any manageable tasks like cleansing with a washcloth or rinsing his or her own hair. Participating in the routine helps him or her to maintain independence.

Dressing

  • Think about the types of clothing your loved one can put on and take off without difficulty. Maneuvering buttons or zippers can be a challenge for older adults, particularly those who have arthritis. Buttons and zippers can be switched out with Velcro or magnetic closures. Elastic waistbands can make it simpler to put on pants, skirts and dresses.
  • Be careful about the fabrics you choose. Older adults tend to like wearing cotton because it is soft, breathable, insulating and simple to wash. Wool, on the contrary, provides warmth but can irritate sensitive skin.
  • Allow your loved one to maintain his or her own personal style. While specific types of clothing can be safer and simpler choices for older adults, it’s important that your loved one feels good about what he or she is wearing.
  • When helping your loved one get dressed, begin with his or her weaker arm. The second arm tends to be more difficult to maneuver into clothing, so it’s better not to place too much stress on the weaker arm. If you’re helping your loved one get out of a shirt or coat, begin with the stronger arm.

Dental hygiene

  • See to it that your loved one brushes his or her teeth twice daily, particularly after eating. If he or she wears dentures, both gums and dentures should be cleaned after they’re used.
  • Make sure your loved one sees a dentist twice a year to head off any potential issues or to address concerns.
  • Consider aids to ease dental upkeep. If your loved one struggles with arthritis or dexterity challenges, you may want to try an electric toothbrush with easy-to-grip handles, or water flossers rather than dental floss. Ask your loved one’s physician or dentist for advice on certain toothpastes or mouthwashes that could help with his or her specific issues.

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