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Keeping a good standard of personal hygiene is important for the prevention of the development and spreading of infection, illnesses and bad odours. Children are taught from an early age about personal hygiene and its importance at giving across a positive body image and to reduce the risk of being bullied. People don’t like to be talked about in a negative way, so keeping a clean and tidy appearance and smelling fresh is important for social acceptance.
It is especially important, for example, if there were a group of care workers working within a hot nursing home with service users who were bed bound due to illnesses which may heighten their sensitivity in smells and tastes, it would be rather unpleasant for poor hygiene and odours to be lingering within their own environment.
Or a classroom for care workers training for their working certificates where intimate interaction is necessary, such as demonstrating how to use hoists or slide sheets, it would make the activity far more pleasurable if everybody’s hygiene was well kept.
Maintaining good personal hygiene also boosts confidence in people and can attract partners. Most importantly, poor personal hygiene can lead to poor health. Cuts in the skins should be cleaned and dressed suitably to reduce the risk of infection and pain. Conditions such as head lice and athletes foot should be dealt with immediately to prevent infecting others. And hand washing with an antibacterial soap is the most important thing for everybody to do to prevent the spread of germs, after using the toilet, before eating, after eating, before and after a care worker has given personal care to a service user, before moving onto another service user – from one to the other.
An individual who cannot verbally communicate seems to be refusing to eat their breakfast; the person may feel uncomfortable because they are in need of having their pad changed or they may want to have a wash and get dressed first. When supporting a service user with personal hygiene, it is important to think of the person as an individual and take into account their own routine of what they are normally used to. If the person cannot tell you this, it is useful to find out from a friend or relative what their background is.
If this is not possible, ask the individual and look for signs of acceptance in your actions, never make assumptions. Lifestyle and cultural factors need to be considered for the individual, and respect for their choice in dressing and hair styling, but where necessary and possible, make alternative choices to prevent social exclusion, they may want to wear something that is a little out of the ordinary to most people or something that has been soiled, and they may need positive encouragement to consider something else to prevent them from alienation or spreading germs.
The individual’s needs and choices should be carefully thought about when addressing their issues; being tactful and diplomatic to remain respectful when dealing with sensitive issues, for example if the individual has strong body odour which is effecting others, the problem shouldn’t be made to be a huge deal of but should be privately discussed with the individual. Offer a bath or a shower, offer a couple of types of scent/deodorant, still enabling choices but offering what is best for the individual’s dignity and to build their own confidence and sustain their self-control by enabling their rights; not making them stand out amongst other residents for the wrong reasons.
Posters and booklets about infection control to prevent bacteria and diseases available and within view for the resident’s to see, or watching DVDs. Getting the residents involved in some cleaning such as washing up, something they can do to the best of their abilities. Making the individual aware that you are going to wash your own hands before assisting them with eating, offer them to wash their own hands or use hand sanitiser, explaining in a conversational manner, for example “I am going to wash my hands before I assist you with your food, I don’t want to spread any germs and make you poorly. Would you like to wash your hands first, or maybe use some of my hand sanitiser?
Respect their privacy, offer to assist with their personal care by asking if they would like help and what they might think they will need help with mainly. If other people are around, always keep the doors closed and reassure that you keep their confidentiality. Always maintain good interpersonal skills by being calm and confident in your actions, not being jumpy and make general conversation about the day ahead or what the weather is like outside to remain friendly and pleasant. Offer different products that they may like to use so that they feel the activity is personalised to them. Allow the individual to take their time, do not rush them and allow them to do things in the order that they prefer. If they seem confused, offer them items or show them to the sink or cupboard for things that they may need to prompt them in the right direction.
A lady resident may not feel comfortable with male carers and will not accept assistance, she may become upset and agitated. Colleagues of the carer may work differently or show disrespect which can cause aggravation in the individual and the carer to become withdrawn themselves – conflict. An individual may have personal issues from their past that may cause them to become withdrawn and have low self-esteem, resulting in them not allowing carers to help with their personal care causing more problems with their hygiene. The individual may have a set routine that has become disrupted by uncooperative or inconsistent staff, not being dressed the way that they were or having their hair done the way that they like so becoming to loathe their self-image, therefore not wanting to undress or wash. Culture and religious views.
Enable independence by making sure the individual is comfortable and that they have everything at hand, offer them support if they need it by asking them what they might like you to help with. Offer alternative ways of doing things. Encourage choice by showing them different type of products and procedures.
Keeping the individual covered up and ensuring other members of staff are to knock when doors are closed, signs on doors to demonstrate what is going on in the individual’s room or bathroom etc. Enabling the individual’s choice of personal cleanliness; ask what they may need help with, allow them to wash themselves if they are able, offering materials and toiletries they may need. Making sure materials and equipment are easily accessible; bath hoists, towels to hand.
Spreading of infection and disease – there may be times when a carer needs to submerge their hands into the bath water to wash the individual. Gloves can not always protect so it is advised any open wounds are fully covered with waterproof plasters. Always wash and sanitise hands thoroughly before and after to prevent the spread of infections and disease. Always wear an apron to protect clothing. The carer may be allergic to the individual’s products causing skin irritation, chest infections if aerosols or talcum powder are in use.
Carers should be aware of processes and procedures, plasters should be worn to cover wounds, gloves where appropriate to be worn and aprons to cover clothing. Understanding and using interpersonal skills to keep the procedure calm and pleasant, enabling the individual to become self-confident and do as much for themselves as possible. 3.6 Identify others that may be involved in supporting an individual to maintain personal hygiene
Outside services such as chiropodists to maintain foot care to prevent nail and fungal infections; dental care; hairdressers to keep the individual’s hair maintained- short clean hair can prevent the spread of nits; manicurist to maintain clean hands and nails.
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