Perhaps, more than you may think.
Imagine if you have a fall in the shower and you break your hip, no longer able to stand at all? You are placed in a retirement home because you have demonstrated that you are no longer capable of taking care of yourself. Or, imagine you feel you have no reason to get up in the morning because all of your friends are gone.
These are real scenarios described by seniors who have shared their reasons for not showering on a regular basis. Deciding not to shower in our elder years usually stems from fear, modesty, pain, memory loss or loneliness.
If mobility for your parent is becoming an issue, then stiff joints, lack of balance or flexibility, and other physical inhibiting factors can trigger a real terror of a fall. The potential for injury is high – breaking a hip in older age, and the risk of infection post-surgery is commonplace. The fear of completely losing independence and autonomy will compound the fear of falling. A drop in social interactions or being too shy to ask for help can be why choosing to shower less often is also a reality for some seniors.
Losing the desire to do the everyday little things, like showering regularly is actually very common in senior living situations. But, for family and friends, watching a loved one lose their will to get up and dressed can be sad or frustrating. Here are some things you can do to encourage a positive and proactive conversation around it.
It’s very important not to lose patience with our elders. Reminding them that their sense of positivity is the key to their health and happiness. If your aging loved one isn’t showering, there is a reason, and if they feel safe to talk about it, they are more likely to open up.
Talk about it
Talk to your senior loved one about showering. Ask them when they showered last. If it’s been a few days or more, ask them questions to determine why. Keep moving the conversation forward but stand down if they become irritated. You don’t want them to shut you out or to stop listening to you. Give them time to talk about it and be there to help them find solutions.
Set up an accessible shower environment. Place a sticky mat, add safety bars and an in-shower bench to encourage them to get in and sit down. It’s better to use one foot on the floor and both hands on the bars to climb in and out safely on their own. They may be avoiding the shower because standing up for long periods of time and moving around in the shower can be uncomfortable or painful. Setting up a shower that they can use safely will encourage them to get in – even if they don’t need the assistance yet.
Friends and family
Elderly persons need company. Spending long days alone with nothing to look forward to can lead to depression. A common symptom for not showering can be tied to not having an active schedule or daily routines. Friends or family coming by for frequent visits can help increase their desire to take good care of themselves. If your loved one can travel, visits in town or to see an old friend is something they will look forward to and a good reason to clean up.
Our loved ones need to know that advice and assistance is always a phone call away. With the help of family, good friends and possibly hiring outside help (i.e. a caregiver), they should be able to live in the comfort of their own home and familiar surroundings as they age.
Seniors represent the largest population segment that requires some type of home care service. If your senior loved one needs help, reach out to Home Care Assistance Vancouver for information on our personalized senior care plans. Do not hesitate to call (778) 200-1683 to speak to one of our Case Managers.