Conditions Affecting Personal Hygiene Maintenance

There are many conditions that can affect the way in which personal hygiene is maintained. These can be physical, psychological, social or as a result of a period in hospital. Poor personal hygiene can result in a risk of infection and illnesses and also cause many social issues to arise as a result of odours and appearance.

Physical Conditions

Certain disabilities can prevent the person from maintaining an acceptable level of hygiene that is appropriate for them. If the disability has developed over time, the sufferer may feel a great deal of frustration that their needs are not being met. Any amputation or paralysis can significantly alter a person’s ability and advice and help should be sought from the GP to try and gain help in making any suitable domestic adjustments.

Post-operative patients may find that their physical abilities are restricted, either temporarily or permanently. Plaster casts, surgical incisions etc. can all provide some degree of limitation. Adjustments should be pre-empted and help offered from family and friends even for mundane chores such as laundry and ironing.

Anyone suffering from back problems and arthritis or other mobility affecting conditions may find getting in and out of the bath very difficult. If these problems are expected to be long-term, amendments of domestic appliances may be required. A shower may need fitting, possibly with a chair to help with hygiene needs, the use of a home hair dresser and nail technician may prove very beneficial. Advice should be sought from your GP to find suitable arrangements; social services may be able to advise regarding help with additional costs.

Psychological Conditions

Any mental health problem can affect a person’s ability and motivation for caring for their hygiene needs. Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and others are all known to have the potential to affect a person’s ability to care for oneself.

Loss of memory, motivation, social isolation and a lack of self-worth are all contributory factors. Carers of these sufferers can help by ensuring there are adequate provisions to be able to carry out these tasks. Making sure the soap, towels and such like are readily available and in view may help the person to remember to bathe or wash.

Oral hygiene and fluid intake are frequently overlooked in mental illness. A simple action such as a thorough cleaning of the teeth can significantly raise a person’s moral and help them to feel better about themselves.

On the other extreme, those suffering with obsessive compulsive disorder can become focussed on repeating hygiene tasks as a symptom of their illness. It is not uncommon for sufferers to bathe far too frequently and use unsuitable cleansing agents. Help from the GP may suggest appropriate treatments to combat this illness.

Social Factors

Unfortunately even in today’s modern society, there are still individuals whom find hot water, soap and towels difficult to gain access to. This lack of resources can result in individuals becoming unkempt and socially isolated.

Poor education and a lack of knowledge are other reasons why people have different ideas on hygiene needs. It is important for young children to understand and be taught how to maintain their own hygiene at as early an age as possible.


Many patients in hospital, especially those whom are unconscious, become dependent on staff and visitors to care for their hygiene needs. If necessary their own products should be brought in from home as the familiarity may help them to recover. Patients often need extra help with bathing and washing, hair care, nail care, pressure area care, toileting needs and oral care.

There are many circumstances that affect the ability to maintain hygiene and often, we as carers, can provide a very useful resource in helping with these needs and helping people overcome their illnesses.

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