Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Energy Economy - Personal Hygiene and Chronic Illness

Bathing has become an ordeal for me.  I can’t shower now because I can’t stand up that long and I can’t raise my hands above my head.  So I take baths.  But doing a full bath – like washing my hair and shaving my legs – takes forever and is exhausting.  I have to rest for hours afterward.  So I am constantly looking for easier, better, energy-saving ways to perform personal hygiene tasks. Below are a few practical suggestions I (and others) have followed at various levels of illness to make bathing and personal hygiene easier.  I hope some of them work for you too.

•    Simplify your bathing routine.  Do not shave if you don’t have to – or can’t.  Use fewer products.  Don’t wash your hair every day.

•    Take baths instead of showers.  Or install a chair and/or hand-held nozzle.  Do you really want to waste all your energy on bathing?  Even if you don't think it's absolutely necessary, maybe you could give it a try anyway.  Think of energy like money.  If you save some energy bathing maybe you can spend it elsewhere.

•    Use hand grips and / or gripping bath mats for stability and slipping issues and overall weakness.  Here are some ideas.

•    Pay attention to your body’s responses to heat and cold.  If you have negative reactions to hot or cold water try not to push your limits.  I have very negative effects from heat.  So hot baths are usually not good for me.  Warm, or cool baths are better.  Heat sounds so good, but if I take a hot bath it takes a much longer time for me to recover. 

•    Cut your hair short!  This has been a huge help to me.  It saves energy washing it, drying it, and putting it up all the time (because I can’t stand it on my neck).  It has been an incredibly freeing experience for me.  I LOVE it SO much!  (Warning - You'll be hearing more about my short hair later.  I can't help myself.)

•    Purchase some cleansing wipes to keep by your bed.  If you are confined to bed or can’t bathe as often as you would like and don’t have the energy to stand at the sink and wash, these come in handy.  They are useful for washing your face, underarms, hands, phones, kids hands, etc.  Personally I like the Burt’s Bee’s facial towelettes with white tea extract.

•    Keep a spray or squirt bottle of water near the toilet so that you can freshen up even if you are not able to bathe frequently but are still able to take yourself to the bathroom.

•    Buy a battery operated toothbrush.  They cost as little as $8.00 and can help save energy expenditure.  They also do a better job getting your teeth clean – and we know that contributes to improved health.  (Thank you to my lovely sister for this one.)

•    Keep dental floss by your bed or the place you most often gravitate.  I know when I’m very sick flossing isn’t my priority and, in fact, I’m too weak to do it at all.  But, at a slightly higher level of health I can do better at this.  Besides, I just read an article on oral health, so I’m kind of on a kick right now.  So far, I’ve found that keeping the floss by my bed is the only way it will get done. 

I would love some further suggestions on the topic of caring for personal hygiene while very ill.  Do you have any?  Can you share them with us?  I'm always on the look out for new idea's.

Other Energy Economy posts:
Food - Parts 1, 2, and 3
Grocery shopping and chronic illness
Wardrobe considerations for the chronically ill - Part 1
Wardrobe considerations for the chronically ill - Part 2
14 Suggestions for cleaning house while chronically ill
Leaving the house while chronically ill


  1. Wow. I love these suggestions. Going to incorporate some of them right away. The the wipes and spray bottle are fantastic ideas. I too can not shower, and have had a very difficult time bathing. I have a tub where I can sit in the bottom and let the water run over me while resting my head on the side. That helps tremendously. I keep a very large plastic cup close in the tub and use it to pour water over me. That is how I wash my hair. So I can do that while intermittently resting. But when I have to bathe in the guest bath which is a standard size tub... we installed a handheld shower head so that it can dangle all the way to the bottom of the tub. That way I can still sit and not have to direct the water toward me with just my hand. I just have to hold the shower head (which is too much sometimes). I also put my clothing and towel on the edge of the tub so that when i get up it is an easy reach. During my worst times I have to wait for my husband to help me in and out and to wash my hair. I wash my hair twice a week usually. It is quite difficult even when I am at my better times. Also I sit while brushing my teeth and putting on makeup and fixing hair. Oh yes, and I keep by my bed and by the couch lip conditioner, lotion for body and face, tissues, and dental floss. Thank you so much for the additional ideas. These little things can make a huge difference.

    1. Hi Joanna! I'm glad you liked this post. Thanks for sharing some of your methods. They are helpful!

  2. Glad to see a post on this issue! I found rubbing a bar of soap on the washcloth exhausting, so I switched to bath & shower gel on a nylon pouf. It can be washed in the machine inside a mesh lingerie bag. A terry cloth robe put on when you step out does most drying off for you. Just use a hand towel to dry the nooks and crannies.