A guide to personal hygiene for the elderly


They say prevention is better than cure. As we get older, our bodies can find it harder to fight off infections. That’s one of the reasons why good hygiene is so important, especially amongst older people or the frail. Green Tree Court’s Sarah Cundall, Head of Nursing Care, shares her top tips on some simple steps to aid personal hygiene for the elderly:


1)    Wash your hands

There’s nothing new about this advice, but it seems the message still isn’t getting through. It’s estimated that third of cases of diarrhoea and 16% of respiratory illnesses can be prevented by washing hands properly. But according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society around 84% of adults in the UK don’t wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds. To give you an idea, that’s around the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Washing hands regularly is something we all need to do – and it’s something that really can make a big difference to health and wellbeing.


2)    Bathing or showering

The NHS recommends that the genitals and anal area should be washed everyday, with a bath or shower at least twice a week. Be aware that this is a very private activity for many people. If you’re helping someone with washing try to make it as calm and comfortable as possible. At Green Tree Court we achieve this through our person-centred approach to care. We build rapport and trust by really understanding individual needs. And we put in place familiar routines.


3)    Be aware of anxieties around washing

If you’re helping someone to wash it’s important to maintain their dignity at all times. Think about things that could make them feel anxious – such as deep water or the feeling of water from a shower above. There are various adaptations, such as recliners or seats that can help to make a bath more comfortable. And you might want to consider using a handheld shower rather than an overhead shower as this can be more easily controlled.


4)    Going to the toilet

Going to the toilet is an important part of personal hygiene. For some older people with visual impairments or those living with dementia, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish the toilet from other items in a room, such as a bin. At Green Tree Court we follow advice from the Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Stirling to help make this simple everyday task a little easier. We’ve installed contrasting colour toilet seats in our bathrooms that make it much easier to identify. It may seem simple, but even this small step can help make life less stressful and confusing for our residents.


5)    Dental hygiene

Oral hygiene is important at any age. It can be harder for anyone with mobility problems to clean teeth effectively, but it’s essential to help prevent painful problems like gum disease and tooth loss. It’s also important to consider the impact that a painful mouth may have on eating.



Green Tree Court provides person-centred nursing and specialist dementia support in luxurious surrounding on the outskirts of Exeter. To find out more about our Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated “outstanding” facilities and care, please call us on 01392 240400 or get in touch.

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