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What to Do When a Stroke Survivor Wants To Forego Personal Hygiene?

Posted by Lucy Lazarony Mar 19 2014

Maintaining good personal hygiene after a stroke takes effort. To customize a personal care routine for a stroke survivor, schedule an evaluation with an occupational therapist.


“One thing I think is really key and important is educating both the caregiver and stroke survivor of what their deficits are,” says Denise Crowley, an occupational therapist with Fox Rehabilitation in New Jersey.

Post-Stroke Effects That May Impact Hygiene

Following a stroke, a stroke survivor may experience difficulties with:

  1. Motor skills
  2. Sensory perception
  3. Visual perception
  4. Coordination
  5. Spasticity—a condition where muscles become tight and difficult to move



A stroke survivor with cognitive issues may fear getting into the shower. Similarly, a stroke survivor with a sensory deficit may avoid showering because it makes him or her “hyper-sensitive” about water hitting their skin.

A stroke survivor unable to feel a part or portion of their body may need assistance with cleaning those areas. “The caregiver would re-direct their attention to the areas they are missing,” Crowley says.

How Caregivers Can Help With Hygiene

Here are some tips for assisting stroke survivors with personal care
from Crowley and occupational therapist Jillian Guilmette, also of Fox Rehabilitation.


Taking a bath/shower. For a stroke survivor that fears the water, or may have sensory deficits, Guilmette recommends showering partially-clothed, using no-rinse shampoo and purchasing microwaveable bathing wipes from a surgical supply store.

“Leave their shirt on doing the bottom half, taking it off at the last moment,” Guilmette says. “No rinse shampoo is a really good thing because it eliminates some of the steps.” 


A handheld showerhead is another aid for caregivers to use when assisting stroke survivors with personal care. “A handheld shower(head)—that’s a simple, simple fix,” Crowley says.

For more able stroke survivors, purchase long-handled brushes and washing mitts with pockets for soap for them to use to wash themselves.


Difficult to clean body parts. A hand or arm that is difficult or painful for a stroke survivor to move because of spasticity, or extremities that are paralyzed may need extra attention.

For a hand with spasticity, Crowley recommends soaking “the hand in warm water and making sure you dry it.” She also suggests giving a stroke survivor something to grasp, such as a dry washcloth, to absorb moisture.

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