Personal hygiene is a major issue for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients. One of the first symptoms I noticed when Mom and Dad’s memories began to fail was their lack of attention to cleanliness. Their little house that was usually thoroughly cleaned once a week was instead neglected and filled with the odor of unwashed bodies.
It didn’t take much interaction with other caregivers to discover that lack of hygiene is a common topic of conversation in the dementia community. Many support group meetings were devoted to the reasons behind and the solutions to the problem, and many posts on the Memory People support group on Facebook are also devoted to the subject.
One of my earliest posts on this blog was called Why Do Old People Smell Bad. In the two years since I wrote it, it is my 6th highest viewed post. In May of this year I published an abbreviated version of the same post on Yahoo Voices under the title Why Do Old People Have a Bad Odor. To date it is my 4th highest viewed article on that site.
But apparently some scientists don’t view lack of hygiene as a problem – in fact, quite the opposite. The September 12 issue of ScienceDaily: Alzheimer’s News included an article titled Better Hygiene in Wealthy Nations May Increase Alzheimer’s Risk, Study Suggests. It is a long, scholarly work citing statistics and study results, but the general idea is summarized in the first sentence:
People living in industrialized countries may be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s due to greatly reduced contact with bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms — which can lead to problems with immune development and increased risk of dementia, suggests a new study.
When Dad said my insistence on his taking a shower and putting on clean clothes was making him crazy, he might have been right.