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Bathing Tips for Seniors

For seniors aging in place, the bathroom can be one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. Wet conditions, slick tile, and a wide assortment of hard surfaces to land on such as the edge of the sink, toilet, or tub, can make the simple act of practicing good hygiene into a frightening and harrowing experience. It’s no wonder that, when presented with this difficult situation, many seniors opt to forgo bathing, neglecting their hygiene. Apart from the obvious issues that can arise from this, improper hygiene can, on its own, cause many different negative health effects.

That is why it’s important to make bathing a pleasant, restorative experience for seniors. Think about how relaxing a bath is for you, or how refreshing a shower can be, and consider that older adults and seniors also deserve that same respite.

The first hurdle is to ascertain why your older relative is resisting bathing. Are they perhaps not aware they need to bathe or change their clothes due to mental decline or a sensory issue? This will present a different set of challenges compared to an older adult who neglects their bathing because they’re afraid of injury.

Most Americans are used to showering every day, but outside of things like heavy sweating or activities that involve dirt and grime, it’s not strictly necessary for good health. For seniors, at a minimum bathing twice a week will help them avoid skin breakdowns and infections.

Many seniors are resistant to bathing when their age necessitates having supervision, so ensuring they have as much privacy as possible will help alleviate their fears. Additions to the shower or bathing area like shower stools, handrails, or a step-in tub can allow them to safely bathe without someone watching, but in any case making sure they have as much privacy as possible will help them more comfortably clean themselves.

Running water in a shower poses a danger to seniors, as the constant flow of water makes all the surfaces involved slick and dangerous. But for seniors with limited mobility or motor issues, running water isn’t necessary. Using wash cloths or sponges to wash themselves is perfectly fine in cases like that. Ensuring the room is warm, and playing soothing or relaxing music can make the experience more enjoyable overall. Bathing should start at the face and head, and move down, with special attention paid to the private areas as they tend to get dirtiest.

Consider their needs after the shower or bath as well. Having a plush, terry robe and slippers available afterwards they can lounge in and take their time drying makes it a more comfortable experience, as well as keeping them warm. And allow them to choose their bathing times as well, giving them more control over the situation and allowing them to choose when they’re most ready for it. This is especially important for seniors with dementia, as trying to force them into something is a huge stressor for people suffering from memory issues.