If your older loved one needs assistance with bathing, it can be an uncomfortable experience for both of you, but it is necessary for health and well-being. Be open with your loved one about their bathing needs. If necessary, your loved one’s doctor can help by stressing that they need help in this area. Ask your loved one their preferences of who they would like to have help them with bathing. If the task falls to you, here are ways to make the experience go smoothly. If you develop and stick to a routine, it should become less uncomfortable for both of you over time.
- A daily full bath may not be in your loved one’s best interest. Skin tends to become drier and more sensitive as we age, so a head-to-toe washing every day could do more harm than good. Instead, private areas and skin folds should be gently cleaned on a daily basis with a warm washcloth. Save the full baths for two or three times a week.
- Make sure the bathtub or shower can accommodate your loved one’s level of balance and agility. Remove any items from the bathroom floor that could be a tripping hazard (including area rugs). Install grab bars in the tub or shower and get a shower seat if needed to help your loved one avoid falls. An inexpensive handheld hose for the tub or shower can make rinsing easier. If they are unable to step into a bathtub, consider using a transfer bench or consider sponge baths. Make sure the room is warm and test the temperature of the water before your loved one enters the bath.
- Regardless of the method of bathing, prepare in advance any items that will be needed, such as washcloths, towels, soap, and shampoo. If your loved one has favorite products that they’ve always used, keep using those unless they become too harsh for sensitive skin. If you switch to a baby shampoo or sensitive skin formula soap, explain why.
- Allow your loved one some level of privacy when cleaning private areas. They can keep a towel on their lap throughout the bath which is only lifted as needed.
- If your loved one can handle a washcloth, let them clean themselves as much as possible, even if it’s just to wipe down their arms. That simple action can help them retain a sense of independence and can help keep their mind off the more thorough washing you’re giving them. Other distractions that may help include light conversation or playing their favorite music while they bathe.
- If you are giving your loved sponge baths in their bed, there are no-rinse soaps and shampoos available that make this task a little easier. Be aware, they will still need to rinse off occasionally to remove residue.
- Home care agencies can help with bathing. You may find the best option for you and your loved one is to handle the day-to-day washing yourselves and have a home care aide come in a couple of times a week to take care of the more thorough bathing.
This article is courtesy of Active Daily Living.