Tips to Make Personal Care Less Awkward for Family Caregivers

Is there anything more heart-wrenching than an adult child watching her mom decline to a point where she needs to help with toileting? Or more awkward than a son having to coax his dad into a shower and help him wash? These personal care tasks can be hard for a senior’s family member to take on, and just as difficult for seniors who feel their dignity slipping away.

There are ways to make personal care tasks easier, though. As a senior care professional, you’ve likely learned to overcome those awkward situations with your patients as well. Here are some suggestions you can recommend to family caregivers.

Think differently. It might help to tell family members to think of the tasks in medical or scientific terms to help take the emotional heat out of it. Instead of a daughter changing her mom’s diaper, she’s changing her incontinence briefs to keep her clean and healthy.
Maximize their abilities. If the senior can handle part of the task, see if he or she is capable of doing the things that are most difficult for both parties, like washing private parts.
Distraction is your friend, like reminiscing about shared good memories or singing favorite old songs.
Make it as much fun as possible. Bubbles, spa-like soaps, a few flameless candles and some soft music can turn a dreaded routine into something the senior can look forward to. Suggest the caregiver start with a good back scrub to ease into the bathing process. Who doesn’t love that?
Take the easy route. Use bathing wipes between full baths and dry shampoo for between wet washes. Try wet wipes when toileting for better (and faster) cleaning.
A time for everything. Create a regular routine for the senior’s hygiene tasks, especially if the senior has dementia. Make regular bathing something that happens before church, for example, and always brush teeth before breakfast. Encourage family caregivers to help senior loved ones with personal care tasks when they are most alert. Avoid personal care tasks during difficult times, like evenings for those Alzheimer’s patients who experience sundowning.
Ask for help. If the family member is having trouble doing these tasks or the senior is too combative, let them know there is no shame in asking for assistance. Overwhelmed families can benefit from respite care offered by churches and community groups, or the VA, which offers benefits for veterans.

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