Bathing can be one of the most enjoyable and refreshing activities of the day for many elderly individuals. For individuals who are confined to bed, a bed bath can provide the same refreshing experience. The bath can also improve blood flow around the individual's body, help ease any discomfort the individual may be experiencing, help the individual relax, and give you, the caregiver, an opportunity to observe the person's needs.

Bed bathing is an exceptionally good time to inspect the person's skin for pressure areas. These areas can develop in individuals who remain in one position for long periods of time. Circulation may be cut off to certain areas of the body resulting in skin breakdown. This lack of circulation can be a serious problem if not cared for immediately.

If, while giving a bed bath, you should notice any early warning signs, such as reddened areas on the person's skin, try to place the individual in a position which relieves pressure on that area until the redness goes away. From then on, try to make sure that the person changes position approximately every half hour to minimize the chance of additional pressure areas.

Elderly individuals should be encouraged whenever possible to assist in the bed bath. You should listen, consider, and follow the older adult's wants and needs, such as the use of body powder, perfumes, and skin lotions. Non-perfumed lotions and powders may be necessary if the person has sensitive skin.

Privacy should be an important part of the bed bath. The use of a light cover at all times and the closing of doors and curtains to the bedroom helps maintain the individual's sense of privacy.

A bed bath can be an opportune time to change bed linen. Remember to support the individual during turning. Always keep alert to ensure the person's safety.

You, as a caregiver, can make the bed bath relaxing and refreshing by following some of the basic procedures listed in this section and by maintaining light conversation with the individual. By being aware of the individual's abilities and limitations and by applying patience and understanding, the bed bath can be enjoyable for both of you.

In preparation for giving the bed bath, discuss what you will do with the person. Encourage the person to select a change of clothing. Wash your hands before beginning. Be sure your hands are body temperature so as not to shock the person being bathed.

The basic steps to use when giving a bed bath are outlined as follows: