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Encouraging elders to 'hit the showers'

Senior moments

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POSTED: December 10, 2013 3:00 p.m.

“Hit the showers.”  That was one of my favorite things to hear from coach Schuler, my high-school wrestling coach. It signaled the end of what usually was a long, hard practice.  
Some days, it was all I could do to crawl from the mat and into the locker room.  Ahhh, sweet memories.
Fast-forward to the end of my present-day exercise bouts in my garage. Coach Schuler has long retired, and now all I hear from my wife is, “You smell.” Gee, I was expecting more from her. That’s not even close to how coach Schuler would say it.  Maybe my expectations are too high, but I think a little “Atta boy, now get your tail in there and shower up” would be in order, don’t you?
Honestly, though, motivation for showering has never been a real issue for me. In fact, I think there ought to be a national holiday for the person that invented the shower. Showers help you feel better when you’re tired or sick and also wake you up. And some of my best singing has been in the shower. Most of all, showers help to keep you clean and smelling good.
OK, so right about now you’re saying to yourself, “Where is Rich going with this article?” Well, here goes …
It seems as though there is a trend for folks to shower less as they age. I’m not sure what the cause may be, but I did a little research. Apparently, the issue of elders refusing to take showers and/or change into fresh clothes is more prevalent than people realize. I’m sure none of the people reading this column have this issue, but you might know someone that does.
According to Carol Bradley Bursak, author and elder-care consultant, when a person has little interest in maintaining good hygiene or wearing clean clothes, depression may be at the root of the problem. It is recommended that an appointment be made with a physician if you suspect that someone you know may be depressed. Remember that depression is not to be taken lightly and does not fix itself.
Other causes may be related to fear or lack of comfort. Slipping while stepping into or out of the tub is a real concern. Make sure the tub has a non-skid surface, and be sure the bathroom floor is uncluttered. Throw rugs are nice to step onto but can slip out from under a person. Grab bars can be installed for added safety.
Stepping into a cool area from a warm shower can be uncomfortable. Those who with arthritis feel it most. Make sure the temperatures of the bathroom and adjacent rooms are warm. Have a robe nearby, too.
Memory loss, decreased sight and smell and the desire to keep control can play parts as well. Sometimes, a gentle reminder may be all that is needed. You also can plan routine outings to a favorite restaurant or someplace special. Our parents can relate to “looking their best” when going out in public. This also gives them a reason to freshen up.
Remember that it was more common to take weekly baths when our parents were young. Skin types and lifestyles also figure into the picture. Above all, maintain respect and dignity for your loved one when addressing this issue.  

DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange.  Call him at 912-531-7867 or email Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com.

 

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