If your parent has been skipping their showers or a clean pair of clothes lately, it’s natural to feel frustrated with them. But this situation is far more common than you think. People who used to be very clean with themselves all of a sudden start lacking in their personal hygiene. You may notice that when you visit Mom at home, she’s wearing the same clothes as yesterday or that Dad has a stinky odor to him.

What can you do if your parent is not showering or changing their clothes regularly? Is this a sign that they are losing their independence, or are they just looking for attention?


There are many reasons why seniors won’t shower or change clothes. Sometimes the issue is depression. A key sign that depression is at the root of the problem is if your parent doesn’t seem to take any interest in their appearance. If you suspect this, schedule an appointment with a doctor who can rule out mental illness. If it is depression, antidepressants can be very helpful in treating the condition.

Lack of Control

Another factor your parent may be dealing with is control. It’s only natural for your parent to lose more control as they age, especially if they are dealing with symptoms of dementia. Their response is to take control in other areas of their life like showering and dressing. The more they are nagged, the more they resist, so be careful about being bossy. Talk reassuringly, offer helpful reminders and lower your expectations.

Loss of Memory

It’s also possible that your loved one simply forgets to take care of themselves. You may tell your parent to shower every other day, but they may not know what every other day is. Like kids, seniors can easily lose track of time and not know when they last showered or changed their clothes. In this case, it can be helpful to hang up a dry erase board with reminders or call your parent in the mornings to remind them to bathe.

Hiring an Outside Agency

If your parent continues to struggle with taking care of themselves, they may benefit from a third party such as a respite service or in-home care agency. Your parent may listen better to another person, and if this person comes regularly throughout the week, your parent may associate them with taking a shower and putting on fresh, clean clothes.

Also make sure that the tub or shower area is safe. Sometimes elders are afraid to bathe because they don’t want to slip and fall, which is understandable.

Finally, remember to be patient. If Dad insists on wearing his stained sweater, you may have to live with it. You don’t want to spend precious time arguing over things that aren’t worth it. Some compromise is needed.