A bath can be one of the most enjoyable and refreshing activities of the day for many elderly individuals. Frequently, however, bathing does not routinely occur because it involves a great undertaking by the older adult and the caregiver. An option in this case if for the elderly individual to bathe from a wash bowl or sink, and, thus, avoid physical exertion. This type of bathing allows the person to move at a slow pace with time to rest between washing different body areas. Washing from a tub or sink may, at times, be safer for the individual than trying to bathe in a tub or shower alone.

An advantage for the individual in taking a tub bath or shower is the sense of independence which it might foster. Be sure that you, as a caregiver, take into consideration the individual's actual ability to do so before allowing the person to proceed alone. If you are assisting, be sure to allow the person to do as much as possible during the bathing procedures. Another good point to remember is to check the individual for pressure areas, especially if the person is stationary much of the time. Pressure sores can be a serious problem if not cared for immediately. If 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. Also, special mattress covers and materials (sheepskin, for instance) are available which can help relieve pressure.

Take into consideration any grooming aids such as body powder, deodorant, and perfumes which the individual may want to use. Try to provide these, if possible.

Closing of doors, not allowing family members in the bathroom during a bath, and your own sensitivity to privacy issues can assure the elderly individual's comfort while bathing.

The following is a step-by-step process which you can use in assisting an elderly individual with a tub or shower bath. You, as a caregiver, can make bathing relaxing, refreshing, and less of a chore by following these basic procedures. Remember to maintain a light conversational tone with the individual during the procedures. By being aware of the individual's abilities and by applying patience and understanding, bathing can be enjoyable for both of you.


Content for PERSONAL CARE is from the Volunteer Information Provider Program (VIPP), by Dr. Burton Halpert and Dr. Share Bane. For additional information on this program, click on Publications, or write: Center on Aging Studies, 5215 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110; call: (816) 235-1747; or Fax: (816) 235-5193.

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