Personal care needs are the daily physical necessities of an individual. They include cleaniness and grooming as well as eliminating waste and dealing with specialized issues. Mobility, or getting from one place to another, is also part of personal care needs. For individuals with medical problems, their care may also include taking medication, maintaining contact lenses or dentures, and wound treatment.
Most individuals can meet their own personal care needs without assistance. They get up every morning, complete their routine and go about their day. For others, like small children, the elderly, and the sick, injured, or mentally challenged, performing these daily tasks is a hardship that requires assistance.
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Parents or care providers meet the basic needs of toddlers and babies. They require cleanliness, food, and warmth. Cleanliness includes changing diapers, bathing, and trimming nails. Food may be breast milk or formula from a bottle. Warmth, of course, requires clothes and proper shelter.
In the case of the mentally challenged or sick, the individual is often simply incapable of accomplishing all of his or her personal care needs on a daily basis. Some educational institutions or at-home aides specialize in training and rehabilitating individuals so that they can meet their own needs as much as possible.
The mentally challenged can often be taught to bathe and feed themselves and even to do simple household tasks like laundry or basic cleaning. If someone is ill or physically disabled, he or she can also be taught personal care. For instance, those who are visually impaired can be trained to use a cane or seeing eye dog to travel and to rely on other senses. In some cases, the physically disabled can also learn to be completely self-sufficient.
It is not uncommon for an adult child or grandchild to find themselves in the position of caretaker for an older relative. In-home care by a professional is expensive, and often, elderly individuals do not want to live in a retirement community or nursing home. Caring for an elderly person is time consuming and tiring, and untrained individuals often become distressed by the responsibility. Since personal care needs occur every day and sometimes at night, the caretaker can become overwhelmed and overtired. There are also emotional consequences from watching a loved one grow older and more helpless, and performing personal tasks for such a person may be embarrassing for both parties.
The individual, in most cases, is either already aware, or becoming aware, that these are tasks which should be completed autonomously. For those who cannot change their helplessness, like the ill, injured, and elderly, this can cause feelings of shame and depression. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it is the duty of the caretaker to ensure proper steps are taken to restore emotional well-being.