Older adults with disabilities or with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia may need help with bathing, personal care and getting dressed. This may be difficult for seniors to accept, causing embarrassment, frustration and often anger toward the caregiver.

Bathing, especially, can be one of the most challenging caregiving activities. The following tips can help make it easier and safer.

  • Follow the life long preferences of the person in your care.

Do they like a bath or shower? Do they normally bathe in the morning or before going to bed?

  • Don't argue with the older person about the need to wash up.

Say, “It’s time for a bath now.” Be gentle and respectful. Explain what you are going to do, step by step.

  • Never leave a confused or frail person unattended in the tub or shower.

Use a sturdy shower chair to support a person who is unsteady on their feet.

  • Create a safe bathroom environment.

Install grab bars and safety rails. Use a hand-held shower head. Add a non-skid mat that covers the entire bathtub or shower stall floor.

  • Prepare for the bath or shower ahead of time.

Get soap, a washcloth, towels and shampoo ready. Make sure the bathroom is warm and well-lighted. Don’t use bath oil or other products that can make the tub or shower stall slippery.

  • Always check the water temperature

When you are ready, to make sure it is safe and comfortable.

  • To help the older person feel in control, allow them to do as much as possible.

Place a towel over their shoulders or lap to help them feel less exposed. Wash under the towel with a sponge or washcloth. If the person becomes upset, chat about something else to distract them. Give the person a washcloth to hold to keep their hands busy while you wash them.

  • A full bath or shower two or three times a week is enough.

Between full baths, a sponge bath to clean the face, hands, feet, underarms and genitals is all that’s needed.

Source: National Institute on Aging