Personal hygiene can be described as the skill of maintaining one’s body; by grooming and keeping it clean and attractive in appearance. This skill helps to increase a person’s self- esteem, confidence and well- being and physical health. Good personal hygiene reduces any risks of skin complaints, unpleasant smells and bacterial or parasitic infection and it is important to encourage the individuals that I support to maintain their hygiene so that those risks are lowered.
I also believe that encouraging an individual to take pride in their appearance may help them to build on their confidence as a person and contributes to a general feeling of comfort in one’s own body and well- being both mentally and physically. Encouraging my clients to take control of their own personal hygiene also ensures that they are making their own choices and decisions about their preferred ways in which to carry out their personal care; for example where an individual chooses to wash, and what product they may want to use.
Bathing and showering also promote circulation in the body; exercises muscles and can create a relaxing sensation. Poor personal hygiene can have many effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. Not washing or drying skin effectively can cause it to break down; in turn this could cause a skin infection. Fungal infections can occur when skin is not cleaned and dried correctly or if nails are not kept clean or cut regularly.
Fungal infections may occur if hair is not washed regularly and a simple thing like not washing one’s hands after using the toilet could cause infections in the eyes if the individual itches their eyes. Poor oral hygiene can cause gum infections, a lot of pain and removal of teeth as well as bad breath. In severe cases poor personal hygiene could be the cause of an individual experiencing skin infection so acute that they have to be hospitalised.
Poor personal hygiene could also start and spread illnesses through contact with food and consumables. This list is not exhaustive. Having poor personal hygiene can affect an individual’s sell-esteem and contribute to feelings of depression or anxiety. Poor personal hygiene could also cause an individual to shy away from society, a person with bad body or clothes odour can cause society to react in a negative way towards them or even judge them as an individual.
Having poor personal hygiene can affect the way in which an individual interacts with others and it could cause them to become alienated, embarrassed and in turn they can experience low self-esteem and low self-confidence. All of these factors could contribute to the individual finding it difficult to establish or maintain relationships with others and being generally unhappy. When supporting my clients with their personal care I am careful to firstly ask them what their preferences are and if they feel well or able to have a wash, bath or shower.
Bathing or showering may be in a client’s care plan but that does not mean that that client chooses to bath or shower every day; they may want to have a strip wash instead. Being sensitive to an individual’s own skills with regard to washing is also important in maintaining their independence so I always inform my clients that I am there to support them if they need me to do anything in particular and to let me know if they do once I have established what they can do for themselves.
I have supported a client that required assistance with washing their hair on a weekly basis and I happened to be the team member who carried out the personal care every week but on coming back to work form annual leave and visiting the client I noticed that the client’s hair was quite greasy and obviously hadn’t been washed. I sat with my client and after establishing that she was well asked her if she would like me to wash her hair as I had plenty of time and reminded her of how good she felt after I’d washed her hair in the past.
While we were in the bathroom and I was washing the client’s hair I asked her if she felt ok and if she felt comfortable with the other members of my team supporting her with washing her hair. My client said that she didn’t feel comfortable or safe with somebody else washing her hair because they hadn’t seen the way that it was done and that when I was not able to attend that particular visit she chose not to ask my other team members for support with washing her hair.
On drying my client’s hair I remarked “now does that feel better? ” after which my client replied that it felt great. After we had finished in the bathroom I approached the subject by asking my client what she thought about organising another member of my team being present while I washed her hair so that if I was away from work for any reason, somebody else would be able to assist her with her personal care. My client thought that this would be a
good idea and I organised that happening with my team leader shortly afterwards. By approaching the situation with her preference and needs in mind and focussing on them and not my thoughts and being careful not to embarrass her, we were able, together to find a solution for the future visits and ensure that both her well- being and physical health were upheld. When supporting a person with their personal care it is imperative to treat them with respect and to treat them as individuals.
Not all individuals have a clear understanding of the importance of good personal hygiene and some people may have not thought about the importance of maintaining theirs for a number of reasons; these could include having a learning disability, head injury or a physical disability or mental health issue. I try to empower the people that I support as that was a mission statement of the company that I work for, and informing my clients about the many factors that make up good promotion of personal hygiene enables them to make their own decisions about theirs. The factors could include:
The importance of health, social life and psychological well-being. The importance of being independent. The importance of reducing the risk of causing or spreading infection and illness. The importance of keeping personal hygiene equipment clean and suitable for the job. Supporting people with their personal care is a very private matter and one that I do not take lightly; I have empathised and thought about how it would feel if I needed somebody to help me with my daily ablutions and to be completely honest; although I am somebody that has assisted many people
with their personal care over many years the idea of somebody helping me with mine makes me feel quite uncomfortable. I try to remember this when I assist people with their personal care. Our organisation fits gender to gender when co-ordinating support visits as much as possible which helps to maintain a person’s dignity and our client’s preferences are recorded in their care plans for all of our team to see so that their choices are upheld and any religious or cultural beliefs are respected.
I often assist with intimate personal hygiene and always ask the client if they are comfortable with me assisting them at first, and if they can carry out their own intimate care. It is amazing how many people I have seen going into a personal care routine at full flow before establishing first with the client about what they can do for themselves. I always use my personal protective equipment which includes gloves and I am always careful to cover up my client as much as possible during the personal care; keeping them warm and maintaining their dignity.
I have supported clients at home that have their personal care supported in busy lounges with family members milling around here and there and have tried with my team leader and Management to organise a privacy screen in the past and where this is not available I stop all personal care and cover my client up when people are coming close to the vicinity of where the personal care is taking place. I also talk to the client about everyday matters so as to take the focus away from the personal care.
Others may be involved with supporting my clients with their personal hygiene and these may include themselves firstly, their partners, friends, relatives, other team members, a continence support worker or a district nurse. There are risks to my own health when I am supporting somebody with their personal hygiene and these include the spreading of germs and infections through bodily fluids or airborne spray and a risk of injury when supporting a client with mobility assistance needs or challenging behaviour.
The risks can be reduced firstly by the adequate and correct training and my competence. Using the correct hand washing procedure reduces the risk of my clients spreading infection and the use if my PPE also reduces the risk of me becoming infected. I am careful not to cut a client when shaving in case their blood infects me and I am careful around any open wounds. When disposing of dressings or soiled continence pads I am careful and “double bag” them, which means putting them in two plastic bags and I dispose of them in the correct bin and change my gloves afterwards.
I dispose of my used PPE and clean my hands thoroughly after supporting with personal care as I may come into contact with others and other things such as client folders that could carry infection. When assisting people with their personal care I support them in accordance with their moving and handling risk assessments and their care plan so as to reduce a risk of injury to myself through faulty equipment or not using equipment correctly, I always check inspection dates on equipment. I have attended training on how to deal with challenging behaviour and have de-escalation skills which reduce a risk
of harm to me. There could be many underlying issues that are the reason for individuals having poor personal hygiene and these could include a person being in pain in certain areas where they would wash but choose not to because of the pain that they experience when doing so, a person may not have had any education with regard to personal hygiene or they may not believe that it is important to have good personal hygiene. Cosmetics are expensive and an individual may not be able to afford washing products to clean themselves or their clothes.
An individual could be experiencing abuse and because of this chooses to cover up and refuse assistance with personal care, or could be experiencing depression and low self- esteem so has no interest in their appearance. Addressing the issues that are beneath a person’s poor personal hygiene should be done in a suitable manner, for example; if a person lacks the finances to buy toiletries I could sensitively ask if they thought it would be a good idea to look at their expenditure and budget to assist with managing it or to get in touch with their financial care provider to find out if any more resources were available to them.
I would report any suspicion of abuse to my line manager immediately and monitoring of the client would be required. I could try to get the message over of how important good personal hygiene is and the factors listed previously with an individual that has depression or low self-esteem. I could encourage an individual in pain to visit their GP to address the cause of the pain and therefore making it more comfortable for them to wash. Each issue of poor personal hygiene is a bespoke one and should be dealt with with the individuals dignity in mind and with their choices and beliefs upheld.