ComForCare Home Care Serving Somerset & Northern Middlesex Countries

Posts Tagged elderly hygiene

Avoiding Cold and Flu This Winter Season

Tuesday , December 10 , 2019

Avoiding Cold and Flu This Winter Season

Germs: The gift that keeps on giving. If someone so much as sneezes in your general direction, it’s game over. Sniffles and coughs for week.

With cold and flu season fully under way, it’s the perfect time to discuss how NOT to get sick this winter.

Good news: You don’t have to avoid going in public for the next three months or skip out on any fun holiday parties.

The best thing you can do to avoid sickness and limit the spread of germs is to wash your hands. All it takes is a little soap and water, a few seconds scrubbing, and a quick rinse.

It couldn’t be easier!

Surprisingly, viruses that cause colds and the flu are most often transmitted on hands. Sick people rub their eyes or itch their nose, then touch things like door handles and handrails, and leave a trail of germs wherever they go. And studies show that contamination from just one germy door handle can infect an entire building within hours!

By washing your hands, you help rid yourself of germs you may have picked up from other people – and you also help make sure you’re not spreading your own germs around.

Here’s what you need to know:

When should you wash your hands?

Short answer: As often as possible.

Slightly longer answer: As you touch surfaces and objects through the day, you accumulate germs on your hands. This is especially true if you go out in public! While it’s impossible to keep your hands totally germ-free, frequent washing will make a big difference.

Always wash your hands:

  • Before preparing food
  • After using the toilet, changing a diaper, or cleaning up after a child who has used the toilet
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Before treating wounds
  • Before AND after caring for a sick person
  • After handling garbage
  • After coming home from a public place, such as a supermarket or restaurant
  • Whenever your hands are visibly dirty

How to wash your hands

It’s simple, right? Just turn on the water, use a little soap, rinse, and you’re done! Well, while those things are true, hand washing does require a bit more finesse.

Follow these steps every time:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (either hot or cold)
  • Apply soap and lather well
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds
  • Remember to scrub all areas, including backs of hands, between fingers, and above the wrists
  • Rinse well
  • Dry your hands with either a clean towel or an air dryer

It’s also worth noting that over-the-counter antibacterial soap isn’t any more effective than regular hand soap – so whatever you have on hand (both figuratively and literally) will do!

Don’t have time to wash? Use hand sanitizer instead!

We understand that sometimes you just don’t have time to wash, or maybe you don’t have access to a sink and soap. In those instances, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can do the trick.

Follow these steps:

  • Make sure you choose a sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol
  • Check the expiration date: All sanitizers have an expiration date on the dispenser after which time they start to lose their effectiveness
  • Apply the gel to the palm of one hand
  • Rub your hands together
  • Rub the gel all over the surface of your hands, fingers, and wrists until they are completely dry

It’s important to note that sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs (such as norovirus and Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhea), and they likely won’t be effective if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

Bottom line?
Washing your hands is a quick and easy way to stay healthy this winter. There are no excuses NOT to do it!

Posted in: Health

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Diogenes and Hoarding Disorder in Older Adults

Monday , June 10 , 2019

Diogenes and Hoarding Disorder in Older Adults

Walking into the home of a hoarder can be a bizarre experience. Most of us think of our homes as places to shelter us, to keep us safe and comfortable. But to a certain percentage of the population (estimated to be around 4%, and more prevalent in older people) the home becomes a place to safeguard precious possessions. And for these individuals, every possession is precious, from twenty-year-old mail, to every plastic bag they have brought home since 1978. In extreme cases, even rotten food and toe-nail clippings can be impossible to part with.

 I remember one client we had briefly who couldn’t shower because the bathroom was filled with old papers and mechanical devices. To get through his front door, you had to turn sideways to navigate the stacks of stuff. He had to sleep sitting upright in a chair because his bed was covered with piles of debris. Storing his things was more important to him than is safety or comfort.

Another client, one of the first I had after launching my agency, had lived in a large apartment for forty years. Financially, she was extremely well off. She had held an administrative position with a large company for many years and was still working there past retirement age. In her free time, she traveled extensively and brought back souvenirs from all her trips.

When I was called in by a geriatric case manager to help her move to an assisted living, I found her living in squalor. Her expansive apartment was filled to the gills, making the place a hazard for her. In addition to the danger the piles of stuff both old and new presented, the apartment was overrun with cockroaches—they were on the walls of her kitchen, in her laundry basket, in the drawers of her bedroom furniture.  Yet her clothes were pretty, and in conversation she seemed quite mentally competent.

I worked with this client for months to gradually persuade her to allow us to throw things out, fumigate her remaining possessions, and move her to a place that would be healthful for her. I am delighted that we succeeded, but I know that for many hoarders the change would have been unthinkable.

People of any age can suffer from hoarding syndrome, but for many older adults Diogenes and elderly hoarding disorder pose very serious problems, to both themselves and others.

What is Diogenes Syndrome?

Researchers have described Diogenes syndrome as “a special manifestation of hoarding disorder.”

According to Psychology Today, “hoarding is often a consequence of having DS, but (DS) is associated with self-neglect and much of the items excessively hoarded are typically items of trash with little or no value.” People with DS often live in severe domestic squalor and unsanitary conditions. The syndrome is characterized by poor personal hygiene, extreme filth in the home, social withdrawal, compulsive hoarding of trash, indifference, and lack of shame.

DS can occur in anyone but is most often seen in people over the age of 60. In combination with other common ailments of age, DS can lead to illnesses such as pneumonia, or accidents like falls and broken bones.

Symptoms of Diogenes Syndrome

Symptoms of DS can vary, and usually appear over a period of time. Often, by time diagnosis occurs, a cluster of signs are present, including symptoms of self-neglect. Others include:

  •  Withdrawal from social situations
  • Poor judgement
  • Changes in personality
  • Paranoia or general suspiciousness
  • Skin conditions caused by poor hygiene
  • Unkempt hair and fingernails
  • Body odor
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Poor nutrition or diet
  • Lack of shame regarding their unkempt appearance

 In addition, the person’s home will also likely display some signs, including:

  • Rodent or insect infestation
  • Unsanitary or unsafe living conditions
  • Overwhelming amounts of household items and waste
  • An intense, unpleasant smell

Often, symptoms are difficult to distinguish from those of other conditions such as schizophrenia and frontotemporal dementia – and, in fact, dementia is present in up to 15% of people affected by DS.

Causes and Diagnosis

Research is still being done to improve understanding of Diogenes Syndrome, but there are certain conditions that are known to be risk factors. Often, a specific incident will trigger symptom onset. Examples include:

  •  Death of a spouse or loved one
  • Retirement or divorce
  • Stroke
  • Loss of mobility due to injury
  • Dementia
  • Depression or anxiety

Experts suggest that at least half of the time, symptoms occur in individuals with no prior history of mental illness. Paired with the fact that affected individuals rarely reach out for help, diagnosis can be difficult. Often, it occurs only after a family member seeks intervention or neighbors repeatedly complain.


There is no official treatment for Diogenes Syndrome, but ongoing care is important. People with the disorder may be at risk for life-threatening illness or injury if left untreated. In addition, those around them are at risk of environmental harm.

Doctors may order imaging to rule out similar disorders or personality assessments to shed light on the root cause. Behavioral therapies, such as those used for anxiety or depression, often help — and if the person is able and willing to take part, support groups can be useful. In addition, having a caregiver come to the home to check up on the individual is often recommended.

In extreme cases, the person may need inpatient treatment. Each case needs to be handled on an individual basis and with extreme care, as individuals are often distrustful of others (especially the medical establishment).

If all else fails, referring people to Adult Protective Services (APS) is an option. Within 72 hours of referral, a face-to-face meeting with the adult by a trained social worker will occur.


Posted in: Aging, Dementia

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Common reasons seniors refuse to bathe and how to help

Monday , January 14 , 2019

Common reasons seniors refuse to bathe and how to help

With advancing age, many seniors become reluctant to bathe. The reasons why can vary greatly from person to person. Though illness and disease are often to blame, for others it may be a case of embarrassment or depression.

Below, we’ll discuss those and other reasons your senior may be avoiding bath time.

Weaker Senses
With age, the senses of sight and smell decrease. Body odors and stains may be obvious to you, but your loved one may not even notice the most unpleasant smells. This is especially the case when it comes to their own odor, as people become “nose blind” to smells after only a few minutes of exposure.

Depression can make simple tasks seem like impossible feats–and while personal hygiene is important, those who are feeling down often cannot muster up the energy to do something as simple as brush their teeth.

If you notice that your senior is reluctant to bathe, it’s wise to rule out depression as the cause right up front. Keep an eye out for these other common warning signs and consider a trip to see their doctor.

Fear and pain

For many seniors, the bathroom can be a downright scary place–especially at bath time. Wet, slick floors are a recipe for disaster, and every bath or shower offers a new opportunity to slip and fall (perhaps breaking a hip, or worse). In addition, the bath itself can be uncomfortable for the elderly. Many seniors become cold easily, and joint pain can make it difficult to find a comfortable seated position.

For dementia patients, these issues are often amplified. Your loved one may not understand why there is water running on them and become afraid or hallucinate. They often don’t understand what you’re trying to do and think you want to hurt them.

Lack of control
As people age, they lose more and more control over their own lives. From driving a car to something as simple as opening a jar by themselves, lost abilities are a part of everyday life. The one thing elders often cling to longest is their own personal hygiene, and they can be very reluctant to give that up. For many, it can seem like a final step towards death and they fight it as long as they can.

Tips for helping a senior bathe
There are many different approaches once you’ve figured out why your senior is reluctant to shower or bathe. It can take some trial and error, and often involves compromise, but you can find a solution.

Here are some of our best tips:

Keep the environment safe
If your loved one is avoiding bath time out of fear, there are several things you can do to ease their mind.

• Check the water temperature beforehand to make sure it’s not too hot or cold
• Use a hand-held showerhead to avoid water on the face
• Make sure there is a rubber bath mat and safety bars in the tub
• Start by washing the least sensitive parts of the body first, such as feet & hands
• Keep toiletries and other supplies within easy reach
• Use a sturdy shower chair to help a senior who has trouble standing
• Keep the bathroom floor clean and dry to help avoid falls post-bath
• And, most importantly, NEVER leave your loved one alone

Ease embarrassment

For many seniors, getting help with bathing is embarrassing. It’s vital to do what you can to help them feel comfortable.

• Use a large towel or shower curtain to cover your senior while they undress
• Keep a towel over their private areas while bathing and use a sponge or washcloth to clean underneath
• Give them a washcloth to hold and allow them to do as much as possible on their own
• Distract them with conversation if they become upset
• Note that sometimes it is less embarrassing for a senior to be bathed by a stranger, so bringing in a third party may help

Make hygiene fun
If you find yourself in a power struggle with an elder who simply will not bathe, try making it into a game. Bribery may seem silly, but sometimes the promise of something fun to look forward to can do the trick.

• Turn bath time into a “spa day” by using scented products and your loved one’s favorite lotions
• Get “spruced up” to go out to lunch or to a favorite park
• Reach out to an old friend and set up a special dinner date for bath day
• Put on some happy music and sing your way through bath time
• Don’t forget to say how wonderful they look and smell after their bath

If all else fails, compromise
Above all else, maintaining a loving, trusting relationship is key. When it comes to hygiene, sometimes you have to lower your standards and meet in the middle. Do not expect or insist on a bath or shower to happen every time it’s on the schedule: sometimes it’s just not going to work out.

Final thoughts
If personal hygiene has become too overwhelming for you or your loved one, we can help. At ComForCare, we not only have the professional experience to ease your troubles, but we’ve been through it ourselves.

One of our favorite parts of the job is educating you and your family about senior health and caregiving. The more you know about the prognosis, care, and treatment of your family member’s condition, the more in control you can feel.

Posted in: Aging, Caregivers, Home Care

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