When there is a noticeable change in your bathroom habits it could indicate other less obvious wellbeing concerns: poor hydration, increased anxiety or declining health (including mental health). In this article we look at some of the changes that MySense can detect and what they might mean.
We’re all different when it comes to the frequency of showering or bathing. Whether you wash once a day or 3 times a week, it doesn’t matter in terms of your wellbeing. However significant changes in bathing habits could indicate that something is not quite right. They could be linked to:
- Depression/ boredom - If you used to take good care of yourself but you rapidly lose interest, it’s worth exploring whether the change in bathing behaviour is linked to depression or a diminishing sense of self worth. Boredom can also be a factor, when you’re on your own for large stretches of time and if there isn’t company coming over or an outing coming up, then what’s the point of exerting the energy on bathing.
- Anxiety / fear - A bathroom can be a dangerous place as you get older, a risk of a fall on slippery tiles could be catastrophic if you’re frail and find it difficult to get up (see bathroom falls article). Also as you get older you feel the cold more acutely, you tire more easily, and you lose some of your ability to balance, all adding risk to the bathing experience.
- Dulling senses - As we get older our senses dull and can lead to ‘nose blindness’ to our own smell and that of our home. This might mean we don’t recognise our body odor which used to prompt us to bathe.
- Cognitive Impairment - Poor personal hygiene is an incredibly common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. These conditions are often accompanied by depression, difficult behavioral changes, sensitivity to stimuli and an inability to keep track of time which add to the challenge of bathing frequently.
It is important to get to the bottom of why these habits have changed so dramatically. In bad cases poor hygiene can lead to Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and nasty skin conditions.
Frequency of toileting
How often you have to urinate is a good indicator of your body’s overall state of hydration. It’s considered normal to have to urinate about six to eight times in a 24-hour period. If you’re going more often than that, it could simply mean that you may be drinking too much fluid or consuming too much caffeine, which is a diuretic and flushes liquids out of the body. But frequent urination also can be a sign of several more serious conditions, including a bladder infection and prostate problems. If you see a sudden uplift in the number of times you or the person you care for is going to the toilet, it might be worth seeking medical advice .
If you're going less frequently than six times a day it could mean that you’re not drinking enough. Hydration is so important that even when levels drop only slightly, we begin to feel the consequences. Low levels of fluid in the body can cause headaches, feelings of dizziness, lethargy, poor concentration and a dry mouth. Over a longer term, dehydration can cause constipation and can be associated with urinary tract infections and the formation of kidney stones.
Bowel behaviours in older adults
As we age things change, and this includes bowel habits. The most common thing to happen with age is that constipation is more frequent. Constipation is usually defined as less frequent bowel movements (two or fewer per week). This can be managed by changing how much you drink and what you eat. These are some changes you could make:
- Drink 8 glasses of water a day.
- Eat foods rich in fiber including (the old stand-by) prunes.
- Consume bread with whole grains and cereals.
- Eat dairy products in moderation, and
- Avoid fried fast foods.
It is also normal as we age to have diarrhea from time to time - not because of aging per se, but because we can eat foods that "disagree" with us or we ingest some infected food product. Our ability to cope with these things is linked in some way to sleep, if we’re not getting enough sleep we won’t be making enough antibodies to ward off these types of reactions or gut infections.