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It really isn’t easy to come to terms with the fact that your mother, who has been your primary caregiver since forever, is ageing. From Alzheimer’s disease to bone problems to basically, a deteriorating mental and physical health overall—it’s actually quite difficult to watch her go through this inevitable change as she ages.
Surely, the concerned child in us makes us pounce at every opportunity to safeguard her health and keep the common age-related diseases at bay. However, we often tend to forget another very important aspect of her health—her intimate hygiene and health.
While encouraging healthy eating habits and mild exercise can help them keep most of the other health problems at bay, here are 5 important things to know about managing the intimate health of an elderly woman that can help you encourage her to pay extra attention to her intimate parts and take care of them:
1. She might be more vulnerable to infections down there
“The skin of the elderly is frail and wrinkled due to the loss of subcutaneous fat. It is prone to injuries and pressure ulcers. Hence, there is an increased risk of bacterial and fungal infections in the skin folds due to the accumulation of sweat,” warns Dr Pranay Shah, gynaecologist and obstetrician, Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai.
“Long-term diaper due to immobility or ease of elderly care may also make them prone to infections in these areas,” he adds.
2. Itchiness isn’t always a sign of infection though
Being in an age group where your mother is more vulnerable to catching an infection in her intimate area doesn’t mean that you should label every kind of itching or irritation as one.
“Post-menopausal atrophy due to hormone deprivation can further lead to itching and urinary complaints which mimic infections. This can lead to unnecessary antibiotic abuse. Not to mention, urinary and stool incontinence or improper cleaning can lead to perianal and perineal infections as well,” Dr Shah mentions.
3. You’ve got to be extra cautious if your mother is bed-ridden
If you or a medical attendant help your mother clean up, then Dr Shah suggests using a clean sponge to wipe her intimate areas.
“Maintain privacy and expose body parts sequentially during the bathing and cleaning,” he says.
4. Communicate with her
It’s okay for you to discuss intimate health with your mum. In fact, you need to normalize it. A polite approach that doesn’t invade her privacy can be a great start and pave way for you to be able to add to her knowledge about her own intimate health and hygiene.
5. Keep the essentials ready for her
Make sure all the essentials are ready and available for your mother. Liquid soap is preferable to soap bars as they are easier on the fragile skin and more hygienic as well. Soap bars tend to fall and get contaminated. Use/ask her to use soft towels to pat her skin dry instead of rubbing with towels to dry the intimate area as this can damage the skin there
6. Encourage comfy clothing for mommy
After a good bath, make sure your mom’s wearing a breathable, comfortable set of clothes that aren’t too tight.
7. Pay extra attention to the skin folds
Skin folds tend to trap dirt and bacteria underneath. The neck, under the breasts, armpits, waist and genitals is especially prone to this problem. Thoroughly clean these areas with liquid soap to remove dirt and bacteria. It is important to pat dry these areas to prevent fungal infections.
Use talc or moisturizers in these areas after drying. If there is evidence of fungal infection, apply anti-fungal powder or ointment to the affected areas. A suitable antibiotic ointment can be applied to ulcers and areas with broken skin.
8. If your mother needs diaper care, read this
According to Dr Shah, mothers who are immobile or not able to use the toilet on their own may need diapers through the day or at night. Diapers should be changed twice daily or more if they get fully soaked and soiled. Make sure the skin is thoroughly cleaned with liquid soap and pat dry. You can also apply talc or antifungal powder to keep the area dry.
“It is also important that the caregiver is protected. Suitable gloves should be worn when touching broken skin, ulcers, or private parts. A water-proof apron will avoid getting wet during the bathing ritual,” he adds.
So, ladies, with just a few steps you can make sure your mommy’s intimate health is safe.