Hygiene and Self Care
HD can cause a person’s hygiene habits and attention to maintaining their personal appearance to decline. Apathy and decreased social awareness can be key reasons for this. Feelings of shame or embarrassment that typically motivate self-care may no longer be experienced.
It’s likely that the person with HD is unaware of their change in appearance and they may be insensitive to the effect their appearance has on others. They may not be able to recognize their clothes are dirty or connect that a stain on their clothing with a need for something clean.
Poor motor control and diminishing ability to chew and swallow can also lead to poor dental hygiene. Working with a dentist who understands the limitations and changes caused by HD is important for getting adequate care.
Tips for helping someone maintain personal hygiene:
- Make bathing and changing clothing part of a regular routine as part of a daily schedule.
- Give gentle reminders about bathing and changing. If reminders are met with resistance, allow for more input including time of day for bathing or which outfit to wear. Ask what the patient wants to wear instead of telling them.
- Arguing about bathing or changing will not be effective and should be avoided.
- Convincing someone that their clothes are dirty may be futile.
- Using distractibility to divert focus may be useful to get them to willingly change clothes.
- After dirty clothes are removed, get them out of sight right away. Otherwise, it may be tempting to put them right back on.
- Is there a favorite outfit? Try purchasing multiples of this outfit so there is always a clean one to wear. Alternatively, try washing the favorite clothing when the patient is asleep.
- Use a power toothbrush until it becomes difficult to control. Then switch to a manual toothbrush with an enlarged handle. You may modify the toothbrush handle by adding a bicycle handle or tennis ball.
- Avoid mouthwashes after swallowing becomes difficult.
- Use bathing aids such as grab bars and non-skid mats to prevent slips and falls in the bathroom.
- Make dressing independently easier with no-tie shoes and hanging a complete outfit together in the closet.