If you know an elderly person, whether they are a family member or not, getting someone who is reluctant to wash can be very difficult. It is important to understand that not washing can be a personal choice but sometimes it is not by choice. You need to work out which one it is and act accordingly.

First of all a bit of understanding is what’s needed. If the person in question is a family member and you have no experience in care or elderly people then you need to understand a few points.

Sad but true, here are so facts on getting older:

  • As we age, the body goes through many changes, blood vessels stiffen which means the heart needs to work harder to pump blood.
  • Blood pressure can dip suddenly when standing up and cause dizziness, light headedness, blurry vision, or fainting.
  • Our bones become less dense, therefore more brittle so more susceptible to breaking.
  • Muscles also tend to get weaker and become less flexible so we lose strength.
  • The joints in our bodies become stiffer which can cause inflammation.
  • Loss of bladder control and other urinary issues are common including difficulty urinating due to an enlarged prostate.
  • Brian functions such as memory issues are a normal part of aging.
  • The ability to see and focus on things clearly diminishes with age.
    Senses such as smell can deteriorate.

Because of the facts above older people can struggle to do simple tasks. A carer needs to understand this before attempting to find the route of the problem. You want to be as sensitive as possible as they maybe completely aware of their ailments but others might not, or at least not want to admit it.

Have they lost their sense of smell?

If the person in question is smelling a bit so you think their hygiene has dropped. They might not realise it. They might not be able to smell their clothes so not realise they smell. This is where understanding and being sensitive is important. Find out how their sense of smell is, perhaps make a tea and pretend you think the milk might of gone off and ask them to smell it. If they say oh I have no smell sense, then you know that’s a possible reason to why they or their clothes smell. If they tell you the milk smells fine and you know it does then it’s not down to that.

Are they depressed?

Depression could be part of the problem. If you believe their depression is a problem and the reason they are caring less about their bathing habits then you need to discuss ways to help them out of the depression. Perhaps they are lonely and miss getting out and about like they used too.

Are they frightened of falling?

The fear of falling is a common reason the elderly bath less. Take a look at the bathroom and see if it’s a safe place for them to bath. Ask them if they struggle so bath themselves and would they like help.

If it is personal choice and they talk about only needing a bath once or twice a week, then you need to understand that when they were younger it was normal to only bath once and twice a week. This is where you need to explain the health benefits of bathing more, which is the reason why most people today bathe or shower daily. Also remind them of the pleasure of bathing and how it’s soothing and helps to relax the mind and body.

Understand that when someone looses their independence it can be frustrating and difficult to adjust. Some people will adjust better than others. Trying to maintain independent will give a sense of pride and achievement to an elderly person. If the person can wash themselves or do things but just need a help or reminder, don’t take over, do just that, help them. The more they do for themselves the better for everyone. But unless you get to the bottom of the problem you can’t help.



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