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Bathing an elderly person may require extra supplies precautions, but these will usually make your job easier. The materials you may need are:

bathroom grab bars by tub and shower; properly installed for safety.
tub seat or chair with a back to place in tub or shower
bath hose
mild soap
non-skid bath mat
non-perfumed lotion (like Keri lotion)
powder or cornstarch (to be used sparingly)
fresh cloths and towels

A complete shower or bath is only necessary once to twice a week so as to not further dry the skin. On the remaining days a sponge bath is sufficient. Bathing can be confusing and embarrassing to an older person. It is therefore important that you assist in a calm unhurried manner. Try to adhere to the same routine, especially if your elderly person is confused. Avoid any discussions about the need for a bath by diverting attention away from the battle of wills. Proceed in a soothing fashion, explaining your actions one step at a time. In some cases, you may want to have outside help for the weekly bath from a local home health agency.

For a woman, a weekly visit to the beauty shop for a shampoo and set will assist you in caring for her total hygiene as well as give her a boost in looking her very best. For a man, an electric shaver might be easier for him to manipulate before he eventually needs your help in shaving. Home beauticians and barbers are available by arrangement. A possible source of this information can be found at the local Office on Aging.

During the bath, pay special attention to the condition of the skin of your aging relative. This is a good time to check for a change in moles, infections, weight loss and hair loss. With the aging process, the skin may become quite dry and fragile due to a decrease in the glandular secretions that lubricate the skin. Also, the elderly are much less mobile and may develop pressure-sensitive spots around bony areas like the elbows, heels, hip joints and the low back. If the skin is very dry it becomes more susceptible to injury. Apply lotion and gently massage the arms, legs, back and buttocks to help moisturize the skin while increasing the circulation. Apply cornstarch or powder between the folds of the skin, such under the breasts or in the armpits. Bubblebaths should be used cautiously as they tend to cause bladder infections in women and may dry the skin.

Keep finger and toenails cleaned and trimmed. Soak hands and feet in a baking soda solution before attempting to cut the nails. If this is too difficult during the bath, try soaking hands and feet while the person is sitting in a chair. Remember to cut toenails straight across to prevent ingrown nails. A visit t a podiatrist once a month might be necessary for sore elderly for treatment of bunions, corns, fungal infections and thickened toenails.

Good mouth care is an important part of the physical care. If the elderly person wears dentures, remind to remove them daily, clean them and check for gum irritation. If dentures fit poorly, rinse after each meal to prevent foods from being trapped. If the person has his own teeth, you may have to brush them and check the mouth occasionally for sores. Healthy teeth and properly fitting dentures are important for chewing, eating and good nutrition. Visit the dentist regularly to ensure good oral health.


Tub Bath

1. Tell the older person what you are planning to do in a pleasant tone of voice.

2. Fill the tub one quarter full of warm water (about 105 degrees Fahrenheit). Prepare room so it is warm and free from drafts.

3. Prior to taking person to tub, organize bath supplies near tub.

4.    Make sure safety equipment is in place (bath bench, mats, etc.).

5. Offer to assist with toileting before bathing.

6. Bring person to bathroom and assist as necessary with undressing.

7. For extra stability, you may want to purchase a tub bench from a home health store Some come equipped with an extension to facilitate sliding over to tub.

8. The use of a shower hose may be easier for the person to manage. Allow the person to do as much as possible by himself.

9. If person is at all unsteady, you should stay in the bathroom. You may want to provide privacy with shower curtain. A face towel to cover private areas is considerate of an elderly person's dignity and privacy.

10. Place bath blanket on toilet, wheelchair or extra chair to which he will be transferring.

11. Dry the upper portion of his body while still in the tub.

12. Assist him out of tub, encouraging him to use appropriate grab bars.

13. Dry lower portion of body, assist with lotion and powder as needed.

14. Assist out of bathroom and help with dressing.

15. If person feels faint and begins to fall, protect his head and assist him to floor in as safe a method as possible.



1. Discuss the plan for a shower with the person.

2. Prepare the room so it is warm and free of drafts.

3. Prior to taking person to shower, organize supplies near shower.

4. Make sure safety equipment and rubber mat are in place.

5. Accompany elderly person to bathroom. Help to use the toilet and undress if necessary.

6. Regulate water temperature and have person check it for preference.

7. Help person into shower. If shower is in tub, see section on transferring into tub

8. Have person hold onto grab bars or sit on bath bench or stool.

9. Assist with shower as necessary, washing from top to bottom and front to back.

10. Never leave an older person in shower alone.

11. Assist out of shower to toilet or chair to dry and apply lotion and powder. (An unsteady person may feel more secure on his own bed for this.)

12. Assist out of bathroom to help with dressing. Be careful of wet floors and scatter rugs in bathroom.

***Remember to use outside help when necessary! It is sometimes easier for an older person to have a trained home health aide come once a week than to have a family member help with such intimate tasks such as bathing. It may also be safer.


The Bedridden Elderly

The physical care of the bedridden relative can be more complex and require special attention. The routine of care is somewhat the same as for the active senior. Waking at the same time in the morning and following a familiar routine are recommended.

The Bedbath
1. Have elderly person empty his bladder first.
2. Collect your equipment, linen and pajamas.
3. Begin with mouth care.
4. Have person lie flat and move him toward you.
5. Wash face, beginning with eyes, from inner corner out. Rinse and dry.
6. Wash arms with long, firm strokes from wrist to shoulder. Rinse and dry.
7. Rest hand in basin and soak. Rinse and dry.
8. Wash, rinse and dry chest and abdomen while covering the rest of the body for warmth and privacy.
9. Wash, rinse and dry legs (flex knees if possible), immerse one foot in basin (if possible), washing foot and toes, rinse and dry well. Repeat with other foot.
10. Change water.
l l. Turn person on side, wash back and rub with mild lotion. (This is a good opportunity for closeness; take some time to communicate the warm feelings you have toward your elderly person.)
12. Turn person on back and have him wash his private parts if possible; if not, you complete the bath.
13. Finish grooming by combing hair and applying makeup, if desired.
14. Dress with fresh clothes. (If stroke victim, dress weak side first.)

NOTE: Washing the body parts provides a good opportunity to exercise the arms, legs, fingers, toes and hip joints. Slowly bend and extend the joints.