Staying independent

Looking after yourself

"I'd like some advice on how to look after myself."

Personal care

Need a little help to stay independent?

Age UK has a range of products and services from trusted partners that can help you to continue doing things for yourself.

If you are getting older or you have a health condition that reduces your mobility, personal care tasks like getting dressed or caring for your feet can be difficult.

We understand that being able to do these tasks for yourself is an important part of maintaining your independence, so we’ve put together some tips and guidance to help you with these tasks.

Washing and dressing

Here’s a list of things you can do to make it safer and easier for you while washing and dressing, and where to get support if you need it.

Washing, showering and bathing

If you are concerned about using the bathroom on your own in case you slip, trip or fall, we have some handy tips for preparing your bathroom. You can also look at what equipment is available to help you in the bathroom.

Dressing and undressing

If you find dressing difficult, choosing appropriate styles and fabrics, adapted clothing as well as using special techniques or equipment can all help to make dressing easier.

  • Skirts and trousers with elasticated waistbands are often easier to manage than those with fasteners.
  • Loose fitting, stretchy clothing without fastenings, such as T-shirts, are often easier to manage and eliminates the need to fasten buttons or zips.
  • If choosing clothing with fasteners, make sure the fastener is easily accessible, such as being at the front.
  • Magnetic or Velcro fasteners are usually easier to manage.
  • Clothes made from knitted or 'jersey' fabrics are often easier to manage than more stiff, woven fabrics.
  • Smooth, slippery fabrics, such as silk, are usually easier to get on and off, as they glide easily over your skin or other layers of clothing.
  • Zip fastenings can be quicker and easier than buttons, although open ended zips can be difficult to align and fasten if you have pain or stiffness in your fingers.
  • Extended tabs or loops can be added to zip tags to make them easier to grip and fasten.
  • Avoid loose, trailing clothes, such as long skirts or scarves.

Support with washing and dressing

Family and friends

It might be worth talking to family or close friends about your needs. They may be happy to give you a hand with dressing or, perhaps you might just want them to be in the house while you are washing in case you have an emergency.

Home care agencies

Having a paid carer visit you at home to help you with your personal care tasks can make a big difference to your life. This type of care is often referred to as ‘homecare’ or ‘domiciliary care’.

This care can be provided by a home care agency, or you can hire your own carer.

Learn more about getting help from a paid carer on the NHS website.

Adult social care

If you have had a needs assessment and qualify to receive care and support from us, we’ll work with you to create a care and support plan. This could include care in your home.

Find out more about arranging adult social care.

Caring for your feet

Looking after your feet by wearing good footwear and treating common foot problems can prevent you from being unsteady on your feet and the risk of falling.

Footwear

A good shoe should support and protect your foot. It should also allow natural movement while walking. Poor-fitting shoes can cause foot problems, such as corns, calluses, bunions and ingrown toenails.

When choosing shoes, look for:

  • an upper made of leather or breathable natural or synthetic materials with seam-free linings
  • a deep and roomy toe-box at the front of the shoe to prevent pressure on the toes and joints on the side of the foot
  • a cushioned and flexible, light rubber sole with good grip
  • a heel no more than 3 centimetres (one-and-a-half inches) high and broad enough to provide stability
  • laces, buckles or Velcro strap fastenings that hold the shoe comfortably and securely on the foot and support your ankles.

Avoid:

  • slip-on shoes
  • shoes that are too big or small, or with squashed backs
  • smooth leather or plastic soles, and thick rubber soles that extend over the toe
  • lace up shoes that are untied or without laces
  • high heeled or backless shoes.

Top tip

Shoes with a strong grip or thick rubber soles are great protection from slippery surfaces when you are outside the house during poor weather conditions.

Foot care

Tips to keep your feet in good condition

Good foot care doesn’t need to be labour intensive. Here are our tips:

  • keep your feet clean and dry - especially between your toes.
  • check your feet regularly for cuts, sores, redness, swelling or bruising. Get to know your feet well so you know what is normal.
  • trim your toenails regularly.
  • if your skin is dry, use a foot cream and/or heel balm to prevent it from cracking and improve its texture.
  • use a foot file or pumice stone to remove any hard skin.

Support with footcare

If you need advice or support with your footcare, here are some places you can go for help:

Your pharmacist

If you are unsure how to care for your feet yourself, your pharmacist can recommend creams and equipment for you to use.

Podiatrist

If you experience any problems with your feet, such as cuts, sores or fluid and/or blood leaking contact a registered podiatrist (or chiropodist).

Podiatrists are care healthcare professionals who have been trained to diagnose and treat abnormal conditions of the feet and lower limbs.

Learn more about podiatrists on the NHS website.

Find podiatrists and chiropodists services on the NHS website.

Your GP

You can also talk to your GP if you have a health condition that affects your feet, such as diabetes, poor circulation or a low immune system. They can check your feet regularly and advise on the best course of action.

Eye care

Your vision plays an important part in your sense of balance and movement so remember to care for your eyes and keep them as healthy as possible.

Eye care tips

  • Take care when moving from light to dark, or the other way round. Reduced vision can lead to falls. Give your eyes time to adjust.

  • Get your eyes checked regularly, as opticians can pick up a range of health conditions as well as look after your sight. If you are aged 60 or under, your eyes should be checked every 2 years. People aged over 70 should have an eye test every year.

  • Ask your optician for advice if you find that you sometimes trip when you are walking outside. They may recommend a separate pair of glasses to wear while you are outdoors.

  • Make sure you wear your glasses if you need them for general vision - don’t keep them in your bag or pocket.

  • Keep your glasses clean.

  • If your glasses are broken, or do not fit well, make sure you consult your optician.

Support with eye care

Visit your optician

If you have any concerns with your eyes, make sure you visit your optician.

Opticians are highly-trained specialists who can recognise, treat, and write prescriptions to help manage most common eye conditions and anomalies.

You can find an optician on the NHS website.

Exercise

Keeping active is an important part of looking after yourself. The more you move around, the better your energy and strength levels will be and this will help to reduce the risk of your limbs and joints getting stiff and causing a fall.

Learn more about why is important to stay active or get some exercise tips.