Caregiver's Handbook--Part 4 of 9

Personal Care

Personal Care

Personal Care Activities
Assisting With Eating
Rest and Sleep
Tips For Encouraging Self-Care


Personal care activities

Include: eating, bathing, shaving, caring for the skin, hair and mouth, and transferring (moving from chairs, toilets or bed). During the course of our daily lives these activities are taken for granted until weakness or a disability makes them difficult to accomplish independently or safely. Providing assistance requires knowledge, patience, skill and physical strength.

  • Bathing: Bathing an older person may require strength, special equipment and skills. It is advised that caregivers ask the elderly person's doctor and.or physical therapist for special instructions on how to safely bathe the carereceiver.
  • Shampooing and Shaving: Visits to a barber or hairdresser are very positive experiences. Individuals who provide this service will often come to the home. Wetting hair with alcohol or cream rinse helps to remove the snarls. Dry shampoos are available if your family member is bed bound. People who are diabetic or on medication to thin the blood (anti-coagulants, i.e., Coumadin) should use an electric shaver to reduce the risk of cuts. It is much easier and safer to shave another person with an electric razor.
  • Skin Care:


    Constipation or Irregularity

    Many elderly become constipated due to medications and inactivity. If your carereceiver is experiencing this problem the doctor or nurse can suggest a stool softener. Other important factors are:

    Assisting with Eating

    Eating can be very time-consuming, especially if the older person must be fed. Encouraging independent eating saves time for caregivers, and promotes the independence and self-worth of the older person. Try to relax yourself and enjoy the time spent with your carereceiver. Here are some suggestions for encouraging independence:

    These can be purchased from medical supply houses (listed under Hospital Equipment and Supplies in the Yellow Pages). An occupational therapy evaluation can recommend the best for each individual. -- Prepare finger foods which may be easier to eat than those requiring utensils.


    Moving people who cannot move safely by themselves requires skill, knowledge, and some strength. For every type of disability, there is a specific technique to use. Ask a doctor, therapist or attend caregiver training for specific techniques. In all cases, remember:

    Rest and Sleep

    As we age, our sleep patterns change. The elderly require less sleep time. It takes longer for them to fall asleep. Also, awakenings during the night increase. Scheduled rest times are important. A few naps during the day can refresh and revitalize the carereceiver. However, if you notice that your carereceiver is sleeping for brief periods during the night, it could indicate a problem. Notify your doctor and discuss your concerns.

    Tips for Encouraging Self Care

    When older people do all or part of their own personal care, it is a form of exercise that will help maintain strength as well as promote independence. No matter how small the activity (holding the soap, combing the front of the hair, etc.) it is important that the person be able to participate.

    Be aware of changes in the carereceiver's health and abilities. Your plans for care will change as the carereceiver changes.

    End of part 4

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