Bryan first noticed the odor when he went to hug his elderly mother goodbye. He could tell by the smell of body odor and urine that she hadn’t bathed recently. When he asked her about it, she was so vague and evasive he realized she wasn’t bathing at all.
There are many reasons the elderly may not want to take a shower or bath:
They don’t think they need it. A generation ago people took weekly, not daily, baths, especially during times of water shortages.
They honestly believe they took one recently. Memory issues make it hard to remember how long it has really been.
Their sense of smell has declined. They can’t detect their own body odor and don’t believe others who tell them about it.
They don’t care if they bathe or not. If an elderly person is suffering from depression, they may lose interest in staying clean.
Bathing may hurt. Physical limitations may make the process of bathing, including dressing and undressing, painful.
They are fearful of the process. They fear falling or worry the hot water may scald them.
The most immediate consequence of poor hygiene is a social one. To put it frankly, people don’t want to be around you if you smell. This can be a real setback if you are trying to encourage your elderly parents to get out and socialize.
Most importantly, failing to bathe regularly will lead to serious health problems. Germs, sweat and bacteria build up on your skin and can cause rashes. Those rashes can become infections and possibly even sores. Poor hygiene, especially in the groin area, can lead to urinary tract infections. And urinary tract infections in the elderly can cause confusion and memory problems, unless treated properly.
In our next blog, learn some ways to encourage your elderly parents to take a bath or shower.