Helping the elderly with grooming and hygiene

For aged care workers, there are many matters to attend to in order to keep an elderly person happy, healthy and secure. Encouraging and helping to maintain personal hygiene and grooming is vital to enabling the elderly person to feel the best they can in their senior years, as well as maintaining their dignity and self-esteem.

When helping individuals with their hygiene and grooming, you must always remind yourself first and foremost that you are dealing with a human being. We all have feelings and appreciate respect. We value our dignity. Elderly people are no different. For many, having another helping them with cleaning and grooming can be embarrassing or even painful.

The level of help required for an elderly person will depend on their health status and ability. For some, help may only be required for preparing a bath and having someone on standby for emergencies. Others may be much more dependent and require you to do almost everything to maintain the individual’s personal hygiene, including wiping body parts, towelling them dry and helping with dressing.


    • Stay calm and casual

Despite how you may feel, maintaining a calm, relaxed composure is essential for keeping the older person relaxed too. Becoming anxious or embarrassed will only make your client feel the same.

    • Discuss bathing with the elderly person

Good communication is the key. Is the elderly person comfortable with you bathing them? Would he or she prefer a member of the opposite or same sex to bathe them? Ask the individual if they have any preferences such as bathing in the morning or evening; a preference for showers or baths; particular soaps or cloth they like to use, and so on. Getting as much information as possible will make your job easier, and even more importantly, shows the older person respect.

    • Adhere to bathing times

Even if there is some resistance to the idea, if it is time to bathe, do your best to stick to the schedule. Some gentle persuasion may be required at times, but a routine pattern of bathing really does help to maintain hygiene. If an individual is extremely resistant, it may be an idea to seek out a prescription from the doctor, ordering particular bathing times.

    • Suggest a bath rather than shower

If an elderly person is ambivalent about bathing methods, suggest a bath, as it is a far safer option. However, if a shower is preferred, do not insist on a bath, just ensure that you are available to assist and supervise if necessary.

    • Make sure everything is at hand

Check that a fresh towel, soap, face cloth and anything else required are all within easy reach before you start the bathing process.

    • Keep it safe:

Install non-slip mats on the floor if you haven’t already.  Handrails are also very good to enable elderly people to assist themselves with moving around safely in the bathroom.

    • Be gentle:

Older skin is more fragile than younger skin and can bruise or tear easily. Make sure you cleanse skin with gentle wiping only and pat skin dry with a clean towel.


Communicate with the elderly person to determine his or her dressing style – not how you think they should be dressed. Find out how much assistance they need and only offer help for tasks that are necessary.

  • Lay out the clothes in the order in which they need to be put on.
  • Make sure there are plenty of changes of “favourite” items, such as comfortable singlets or slips.
  • Provide a couple of clothing choices so that he or she can maintain some control and dignity. Compliment the elderly individual regarding their choice of clothing or neat presentation – but only if your flattery is genuine.
  • Over time, try to select clothing that is free of complicated buttons, studs or buckles. Clothing with Velcro, zips and elasticated waistbands are easier dressing choices.


oral hygiene for elderlyOral hygiene is really important for everyone but particularly the elderly. Whether the elderly individual has natural teeth or dentures, it is imperative to keep up regular dental appointments as well as adhere to good routines for cleaning the teeth and mouth. Brush and floss any remaining natural teeth daily; wash and massage the gums with a soft cloth, and clean dentures with a soft brush. It is essential to leave dentures out of the mouth for at least six hours every day to let the mouth and gums rest. For most, leaving out dentures overnight while sleeping is the most sensible time to rest the gums.

Sage Institute of Aged Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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