Keep It Clean

There are many reasons that family members become concerned that an elderly loved one is not doing well.  One issue that is a cause for concern is bathing or rather the lack thereof.  A parent not bathing is a topic that many families are reluctant to discuss as they may be uncomfortable bringing it up. But be assured that this is an issue that many people face.  It is common…but there may be multiple root causes.  It is important to understand why they are reluctant.  Only when you understand that the underlying reasons can you better approach and address successfully.  Let’s look at some of the more common reasons.

 

  1. Fear of Falling

The bathroom can be a very dangerous place. If you have every slipped in the shower, you can relate. Now you pair the environment with physical issues like foot problems, balance issues, arthritis and more…and you have a recipe for disaster and fear.

 

  1. Depression

Often elderly have issues with depression that can zap their get up and go. When you lack motivation, bathing and concerns for your grooming often go by the wayside.

 

  1. Cognitive Issues

Another reason that is very common are memory issues. If your parent has dementia or other cognitive decline, keeping up with a bathing schedule can be extremely difficult.  Realizing that you haven’t taken a bath is not something they may be able to keep up with easily.

 

While it may be a difficult subject to approach, you must develop a plan. For some simply adding grab bars or safety equipment may help. Some may be able to follow a chart.  But if it is a depression or memory issue, it may be time to consider getting help.  As always discuss your concerns with a doctor.  A physician may want to consider medications to help with depression.  It may be time to enlist the help of a caregiver or look into an assisted living community where your loved one can have daily assistance with their activities of daily life like bathing and grooming.  But don’t avoid the topic because it is messy and uncomfortable.  The health benefits of cleanliness are far too important to ignore.

If the Shoe Fits

As I continue my discussion about falls, I thought I might provide a little comic relief to share my most embarrassing fall.  Picture this.  It’s my little girl’s dance recital dress rehearsal.  Mamas, Grandmas, and some Dads are all up in arms trying to make sure they have their little Susie’s right shoes with the right costume and heaven knows we must have on ENOUGH makeup to be “stage appropriate” too.  Well amongst all this chaos we had a routine (or at least a performer) that was about to be cut because one of our senior level dancers was sick and was not able to partner with the junior performer for this cute little number.  Well as they say “the show must go on” and our ever improvising and quick thinking director called out from the curtain…” Is Heather Bradley in the building”?  SAY WHAT??  Oh dear woman, you do jest.  Nope, she was quite serious.  And within moments this child with big crocodile tears that was about to have to sit out was being twirled and tossed by yours truly.  So I fell on my face on the stage during the routine right?  No…wait for it.  We got through the routine and I was feeling pretty good for a washed up former tap dancer.  So as I slipped back into my wedges and started bounding down the stairs…it happened.  I fell down the steps with such graceless effort that I literally fell flat on my face.  Well, I fell on my hands to be more specific.  My friend Renee said I jumped back up so quickly though that I looked like a cartoon character.  So as I jump up to quickly assure everyone that I am truly okay, I make a discovery.  My shoe is broken, my watch is broken and I soon discover at the ER (where my friend Sam insisted I get checked out when she sees blood coming from my wrist) that my hand is also quite broken.  So when I speak to you about falls, trust me I am a professional.  It takes a pro to fall off a stage in front of an auditorium packed full of people.

shoes

So the shoe.  Let me tell you it was the source of the fall.  So when I tell you that ill-fitting shoes can be a hazard, I know from first-hand experience.  Now granted most elderly adults are not bounding down the steps of a stage.  But if your shoes don’t fit properly you can be stepping off a curb or standing up for that matter and the shoes can become a fall hazard.  Another important thing to consider is foot care.  Many seniors don’t have the ability to trim their toenails anymore.  Throw in the fact that many are diabetic and this adds additional risk and you can see how toenails can wreak havoc and up the ante in the fight against falls.  Foot pain and poor footwear have been cited by the Center for Disease Control as one of the major contributing factors for falls in the elderly.  So be sure that you check your loved ones’ shoes and make sure that they fit well and are in good condition.  Also, check their toenails and see that they are trimmed regularly by someone that knows what they are doing and especially if they are diabetic.  Regular checkups are important, right?  It is equally important to get your feet checked out too!

foot-exam_thumb

Be an advocate if Mom’s feet have been missed in the examination.  Most physicians include this in a comprehensive check.  But believe me, I have seen it be missed.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and make sure that foot health is a consideration.  While my middle aged broken hand healed up nicely after my fall, a fall for a senior can be much more devastating because as we age we become more frail.  Taking proper precautions can help your loved one from being one of the 2.8 million older Americans that is treated in the ER annually for falls.  So be smart and evaluate these issues and it will help everyone keep one foot safely in front of the other.

Balance Problems

Have you ever felt suddenly dizzy or felt the room spinning or you feel light headed?  It is a very scary sensation when it happens.  You are not alone; you may be one of 33 million Americans who had a balance problem in the past year.  Balance problems are one of the most common reasons senior adults seek medical care each year.

Good balance is important, especially in senior adults as it often leads to falls and more serious injuries.  An intact sense of balance allows us to do simple things like walk without staggering, get up from a chair without falling or bend over to pick something up without falling. Often issues with the inner ear create problems with balance, or cause dizziness or feeling light headed.

Weight loss can also contribute to balance issues, especially in senior adult women.  Weight loss, even a small amount, can shift our center of gravity and cause balance issues, especially when standing up from a chair.  This can often lead of falls in senior adults.

Good balance is important to our ability to get around, stay active and independent.  If you are having concerns about dizziness, light headedness or feeling unsteady, especially when rising from a chair, talk to your primary care provider.

Balance Problems

Have you ever felt suddenly dizzy or felt the room spinning or you feel light headed?  It is a very scary sensation when it happens.  You are not alone; you may be one of 33 million Americans who had a balance problem in the past year.  Balance problems are one of the most common reasons senior adults seek medical care each year.

Good balance is important, especially in senior adults as it often leads to falls and more serious injuries.  An intact sense of balance allows us to do simple things like walk without staggering, get up from a chair without falling or bend over to pick something up without falling. Often issues with the inner ear create problems with balance, or cause dizziness or feeling light headed.

Weight loss can also contribute to balance issues, especially in senior adult women.  Weight loss, even a small amount, can shift our center of gravity and cause balance issues, especially when standing up from a chair.  This can often lead of falls in senior adults.

Good balance is important to our ability to get around, stay active and independent.  If you are having concerns about dizziness, light headedness or feeling unsteady, especially when rising from a chair, talk to your primary care provider.