A prevalent problem among today's aging population is elderly people refusing to look after themselves. Once tidy and reasonable, many senior citizens refuse to put on clean garments or bathe regularly. Because the source of the problem can often be as revealing as the solution, both will be analyzed below.
Sometimes when an elderly person refuses to get up in the morning or neglects basic facets of hygiene, depression can be the root cause. Common symptoms associated with depression in the elderly are general apathy and decreased energy. Getting a check-up from a doctor or psychologist can help pin down conditions like seasonal affective disorder or hormonal imbalance. Either of these conditions could be impinging on an elderly person's ability to self-navigate his own life.
What happens when people age? Many people would initially think, you lose hair and maybe some memory. Actually, elderly people often feel that with more birthdays they lose control and autonomy over their lives. Especially when elderly people can no longer work, issues of control can lead to a stubborn resistance to routine. The more caretakers urge hygiene and proper clothing, often the more resistance crops up in the elderly person. Assurances that advice to bathe and dress properly aren't about control can help break down resistance and barriers to self-care.
Especially when depression and control issues can be ruled out, caretakers should consider whether diminishing senses like smell could be responsible for a change in an older person's routine. Gently asking whether the person has taken a shower or if the current attire is suitable can clue you into the source of confusion. Also, some elderly patients encounter the occasional memory slip; this might contribute to a retiree plain forgetting how long it's been since the last shave, shower or change of undergarment.
Old Habits Die Hard
This maxim might apply to the fact that many elderly people, especially immigrants, grew up in cultures that simply didn't emphasize fastidiousness or daily bathing. Some elderly people were raised in cultures in which weekly baths ruled the day. Then again, you may want to consider the possibilities of Alzheimer's or dementia and the fact that with those conditions elderly people may revert back to childhood memories and habits in lieu of recent routines.
It will be easier to find a solution when you have identified why the elderly person isn't bathing or dressing properly in the first place. One possible solution, especially where resistance or power struggles are concerned, is to convince a friend of the elderly person to ring up and tell, say, Walter to "take a quick bath and find your bowling shoes for a fun night out!".
On the other hand, if the issue is a fear of the shower or an irrational fear of drowning, consider shower chairs or sponge baths. If the fear is stronger, consider just cleaning the person's face with a towel. Lastly, dementia sufferers can often be reminded of simple chores with post-it notes or assignment notebooks.