A woman removes laundry from the machine and hands it to her mum.

Hygiene Guide for Carers

One of the most daunting aspects of a caregiving role is personal care. Assisting your loved one with basic hygiene is vital to maintaining their health and wellbeing.

One of the most daunting aspects of a caregiving role is personal care. Assisting your loved one with basic hygiene is vital to maintaining their health and wellbeing.

Almost 2 in 5 people say they don’t know where to get support or advice if they become a family carer.1 With that in mind, this helpful guide has been specially created to help family carers approach the basics of personal care and hygiene tasks with confidence.

What is personal care?

Personal care is an aspect of caregiving that involves anything of a personal nature. This may include day-to-day tasks that help maintain hygiene such as bathing and showering, applying creams and lotions, or grooming hair and shaving.

Assisting with toileting is often a key part of caregiving. This may involve:

  • Helping your loved one reach the toilet when they need to go
  • Assisting them with using a commode or bed pan
  • Changing
  • Cleaning intimate areas
  • Keeping intimate skin healthy by applying barrier creams or emollients

It’s important to get to know what your family member likes or dislikes to foster a feeling of trust between the two of you. When helping with any aspect of toileting, you should aim to be calm and discreet, in order to help your loved one preserve their sense of dignity and self-esteem.

How to create a planning routine for hygiene tasks

When creating a hygiene plan for your loved one, there are a few different tasks you’ll need to consider such as going to the toilet, showering, cleaning teeth or dentures, haircare, shaving and nailcare.

Many people like to maintain a sense of independence when it comes to personal care and hygiene. Some people may just need a simple reminder, whereas others might require a little bit of help with tasks they find challenges. Some dependents may need full assistance. Try to find out your loved one’s preferences and tailor the hygiene plan to their specific needs, habits, abilities and desires. Thinking about these questions can be helpful:

  • How often do they want to take a shower or bath?
  • How often do they like to wash their hair?
  • Do they prefer to wash in the morning or evening?
  • What are their preferred products?
  • Do they have any product allergies?

Creating a worksheet that details personal care tasks, how frequently they are performed and what products to use can be a helpful way of getting organised.

Chloe, carer for her sister Phoebe


“I know I can comfort her. Whereas other people know might not be able to, but I know I can kind of work out a way to make her feel better.”

Carer for her sister Phoebe

How to create an atmosphere of trust

Creating an atmosphere of trust is vital when helping someone with personal care. Try following these six communication tips:

  • Maintain eye contact and listen to their needs
  • Observe their body language
  • Encourage independence where possible
  • Maintain dignity and always protect their privacy
  • Follow their lead
  • Communicate exactly what you´re going to do
  • Remain calm and patient

Tips to help someone go to the toilet

Here are some tips that can make it easier to help someone go to the toilet:

  • Leaning forward with feet firmly placed on the floor can help them fully empty their bladder and bowel.
  • Don’t rush. Elderly people may need to take their time to make sure their bladder is completely empty.
  • Regular routines are helpful, but you should also be flexible and make sure that assistance is available when needed.
  • Keep to scheduled toilet visits (if you skip a toilet visit, you increase the risk of an accident happening).
  • Use a soft pillow ring to make the toilet more comfortable.
  • Keep the bathroom clean, tidy and free of clutter, and keep hygiene items within reach.
  • Make sure your loved one’s clothes are comfortable and easy to take off and put on again. Using TENA Pants can help your relative maintain a sense of independence.
Close up on an absorbent product around the waist of an elderly person.

How to help someone change their incontinence products

If you need to help your loved one change their incontinence products, try to do this gently and respectfully. Knowing how to change your loved one’s products correctly will make the process faster and smoother. Choose products that are the correct size, type and absorption level to prevent leakages.

Different products can be used at different times of day and during different activities. Be sure to pick the right one for the best comfort and security against leakage. Whatever product you use, you can always refer to TENA’s detailed instructions, including video tutorials and guides, to show you how to change products comfortably.

Hands squeezing skin cream from a tube.

How to help someone clean up after a toileting accident

If your loved one has an accident, reassure them that accidents can happen to anyone and there is nothing to feel embarrassed about. You should then remove the incontinence product, clean the skin with a gentle cleanser, and dry the skin thoroughly before putting on a fresh product. For extra protection on sensitive, fragile skin, TENA Barrier Cream is a great product to incorporate into your changing routine. It helps prevent skin problems such as rashes, dryness, and infection. It will also aid your loved one’s comfort.

If you go out together, remember to pack wipes, a spare change of underwear, and any incontinence products you may need.

A carer helps an elderly person clean their feet in the shower.

How to assist someone with showering or bathing

If you need to assist the person you care for with showering or bathing, start by choosing the right product for their skin sensitivity. Check the water temperature is comfortable on the lower body before you start to wash the upper part of the body. If your loved one has very limited mobility, you may wish to clean them in bed. Use no-rinse solutions like TENA wet wash gloves or TENA wet wipes that are easy to use and leaves the skin moisturised and protected.

If a hair wash in bed is needed, you can use the TENA Shampoo Cap to make it easy and comfortable to clean hair without the need for water. Just heat it before use and give a warm, gentle head massage before removing the cap.

A smiling young woman helps her laughing teenage sister brush her teeth.

How to assist someone with their oral hygiene

Oral hygiene, including brushing teeth and flossing, is important to prevent oral issues. The easiest way to support someone with oral hygiene is to have them sit in a chair and stand behind them while supporting their head. Once in a comfortable position, you can begin brushing their teeth. Also make sure to inspect gums regularly to identify colour changes, swelling or bleeding (and act on any signs of problems).

A woman applies lotion to the upper body of her husband, in a wheelchair.

How to protect your loved one’s skin

We all need our skin to be healthy – our happiness and comfort depend on it. As we grow older, our skin also ages and loses fat. It can become fragile, dry and more at risk from injury. You might like to put a daily moisturising routine in place to keep skin soft and smooth. Regularly applying a caring cream such as TENA ProSkin Body Lotion can work wonders for dry, sensitive or itchy skin.

When it comes to caring for intimate skin, it’s important to adhere to the right toileting and skincare routines to maintain skin health. If the genital area is exposed to a faecal accident, it is important to remove it promptly to keep intimate skin healthy. Regular visits to the toilet help to maintain bowel and bladder health.

Using a gentle cleanser to clean the skin daily, using the right absorbency incontinence product, avoiding friction in the intimate area and using a barrier cream to protect genital and perineal skin can prevent issues in this sensitive area of the body.


Washing with standard soap and water can dry out the skin. Try TENA Wash Cream instead.

TENA Wash Cream

Always choose the right product, in a size and absorption level to suit your loved one’s individual needs.

Explore how to choose the right product

When doing laundry, use sensitive detergents to look after your loved one’s skin.

How to prevent incontinence-associated dermatitis (IAD)

IAD occurs when the skin around the genital and perineal area becomes inflamed due to prolonged exposure to urine and faeces. The presence of urine and faeces causes a rise in pH, which increases the permeability of the skin and affects its natural barrier, making it more prone to infection.

Check out this guide for more information on IAD.

A woman talks with her mother as they leave the house.

How to keep both of you healthy

Keeping a good standard of personal hygiene will help keep both of you healthy. You should ensure you always wash your hands before and after helping them eat a meal, and help your relative to clean their hands too. Good hand hygiene is also vital when helping someone with their toileting routine. Wash your hands with hand soap before helping your loved one go to the toilet and after changing their incontinence products. You might also like to keep hand sanitiser with you when out and about.

Caregivers hygiene shopping list

This handy list of products can help you maintain your loved one’s personal care and hygiene:

Good to have: bath visor, inflatable shampoo basin.

Related articles

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1. TENA global research on attitudes and awareness to family caregiving in the general population. July 2022 Poland, Canada, France, UK, USA. Each country Interviewed over 1,000 men and women (18+).