personal care - bath for seniors

Bathing an elderly loved one is a difficult task for many carers. In most cultures, this is a highly personal matter so resistance is often a problem. In addition, the sheer logistics of helping someone with mobility problems can be highly challenging. Bear the following points in mind if caring for your loved one’s hygiene has become part of your routine.

Bathing Routine

Whilst you may bathe once or twice daily, this may not be necessary for your loved one. If you find that a twice weekly shower with occasional sponges in between keeps your loved one clean, there is no need for more frequent bathing. Make sure that you always bathe your loved one at the same time and they are aware of the schedule. This is especially important for dementia patients who may not fully understand what is happening to them.

Bathroom Safety

Studies have shown that the most dangerous room in the house is the bathroom. In fact, over one-third of injuries happen while bathing or showering. Making some modifications to your bathroom may allow your loved one to bathe safely with minimal assistance. You should install:

  • handrails as recommended by an expert
  • non-slip stickers in the shower recess or bathtub
  • an approved bath bench for your loved one to sit on
  • a hand-held showerhead
  • non-slip surfaces on the bathroom floor

Keep clutter in the bathroom to a minimum so that you and your loved one can move around easily.

Prepare Ahead

Your goal is to make the experience as relaxing and comfortable as possible. Prepare the bathroom beforehand so that there are no distractions during the process. Consider the following factors.

Soaps, shampoos and creams: Use mild liquid products and soft wash cloths. Older skin is drier and breaks easily so it is important to be gentle.

Lighting and heating: Keep the bathroom well-lit and adjust the temperature of the room. Check throughout the process to see if your loved one would like any changes.

Water temperature: If possible, have the water running at a suitable temperature before your loved one enters the bathroom. Get him to her to check with an elbow before stepping in.

Clothing and towels: Have a clean set of clothes already set out. Have a couple of large towels ready so that you can wrap one around your loved one if he or she feels cold.

Stay Calm

Keep the whole process as calm as possible. Explain each step before you do it and constantly inquire about your loved one’s comfort. Allow him or her to do any manageable tasks such as lathering shampoo or soaping up. It is important that your loved one feels a sense of control throughout. You should:

  • check for rashes or sores
  • wash skin folds carefully to avoid fungal or bacterial infections
  • make sure that your loved one moves slowly and doesn’t feel rushed
  • dry your loved one thoroughly after bathing

Seek Assistance

Sometimes even the most dedicated carers find that they need help with the bathing routine. Under the Australian government’s home care packages, it is possible to obtain home modifications and professional personal care services. Follow these tips for a stress-free bathtime and do not hesitate to explore avenues for assistance if necessary.

Image credit: "Accessible bathroom" (cropped) by Connie Ma. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic)

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