Showering is a fundamental element of self-care. Taking a shower can make us feel refreshed, clean and put together – not to mention keep us healthy by removing bacteria from the surface of the skin.
However, this means that showering can be one of the first things people stop doing when their independence or mental health becomes impaired. But how common is it for elderly people to stop showering, and why does this so often happen?
How common is it for older people to stop showering?
The phenomenon of elderly people ceasing showering is a common one. Many carers, nurses and other professionals will note that their patients seem less willing to shower as they grow older.
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So, if you are concerned about a loved one avoiding the shower, know that they are not alone – this is quite normal.
This doesn’t change the fact, though, that those who stop showering will no longer experience the many benefits of washing, from the physical benefits such as keeping wounds clean and healthy, to the mental benefits of boosting confidence and waking up the brain.
Why do elderly people stop showering?
While common, there are multiple reasons why someone stop showering depending on the individual. The reasons can range from not feeling secure and in control in the bathroom anymore, to early signs of dementia and psychological issues. So, why exactly do some older people stop showering? Let’s investigate each in more detail.
Fear of falling or injury
Perhaps the most common reason for elderly people to stop showering is fear of falling or injury.
For individuals with decreased mobility, taking a shower can be a daunting prospect. They may worry that they will slip over getting in or out of the shower, or that they will struggle to stand up for the time it takes to wash.
Luckily, this concern is easily solved with the use of a walk-in shower or walk-in bath, which both can be used to creating a disability bathroom. Features such as easy entry, power seat, grab bars and shower chairs can make showering much easier for older individuals with reduced mobility. Adding a non-slip surface to the floor will also give the individual peace of mind that they are unlikely to fall.
Of course, if the individual is unable to shower independently, there is also the option of half-height shower doors for assisted washing.
Alzheimer`s, Dementia, and memory loss
As we grow older, our memory function often declines, and among elderly people, this can be exacerbated by conditions such as dementia.
This can be a major cause of older people showering less, simply because they forget to do so. If you find that a loved one is unable to recall the last time they took a shower, try marking the dates they need to wash on a calendar or calling to remind them.
But why do people with Alzheimer`s stop showering? Showering and basic self-care is among the first things that erode when the illness starts to set in the early to mid-stages and it’s a very common side-effect. On top of forgetfulness, we are now facing other challenges too, such as confusion, embarrassment, and anxiety about carrying out a sequence once so automatic now requiring intense concentration. Open and clear communication in this case is as important as ever and look out for body language or any signs of anxiety to try to make the experience as smooth as possible while giving them the space they need while they can still maintain independence.
Changes in the senses
Another simple reason why some people shower less frequently as they age is because of changes in the senses
Elderly people can experience a dulled sense of smell, meaning that they may not notice when it is time to take a shower.
However, on the other hand, reduced circulation can make older people particularly susceptible to the cold, meaning that they may avoid showering because it makes them uncomfortable. If this is the case, try setting your loved one’s bathroom heating to come on before the time they usually shower, so the room will be nice and warm getting in and out of the waters.
Mental health reasons
One of the more worrying reasons why elderly people may stop showering is depression and anxiety. When we feel depressed, we become demotivated and find it hard to fulfil everyday tasks. This can lead us to give up on things like showering because we no longer see the point in doing so due to low self-esteem – or even because we struggle to get out of bed.
Anxiety on the other hand can be related to the task itself, not remembering, procrastination, fear of falling, and can often come in weaves or in relation to a specific task. It is important to reduce anxieties when it comes to bathing, talking to your loved ones can help figure out where the anxiety is coming from and then work toward reducing them.
If you are worried that this may be the case for your loved one, it is important to encourage them to seek medical support. There are various forms of treatment available for individuals of all ages, and this can improve every aspect of the individual’s life – not just their personal hygiene habits.
Ask any care home employee and they will tell you that one of the things that patients struggle to adjust to the most when they move in is being assisted in the bathroom.
Many elderly people feel modest or embarrassed about undressing in front of another person. – especially someone they know. In this case, it could be useful to hire a medical professional or carer to help your loved one wash, as they will be reassured by the fact that this person has plenty of experience assisting others in the same way.
There may be many reasons why an elderly person would resist showering, so the most important thing to do if you notice this in a loved one is to talk to them sensitively and positively about it. You can then offer whatever support they need to help them get back on top of their washing routine again.
Benefits of not showering every day
Luckily its not all gloom. While bathing has many benefits it is important to remember that it is not necessarily important to bathe every day. Dermatologists believe the optimal amount of showers is between 2-3 times a week, so showering every other day is more than enough in terms of personal hygiene for a person who doesn’t do extensive exercise and is not incontinent or have any wounds or skin conditions.
One of the most common benefits of not showering every day is the decrease in skin irritation and dry skin, given the good bacteria and oils are not excessively cleansed away from the skin and the same applies to scalp health. Moreover, apart from benefits to your body not showering every day will significantly reduce your water bill.
If you would like any advice about making showering easier for elderly relatives, give our mobility experts a call today on 0800 083 2034