While bath lifts offer the convenience of safe and independent bathing to mobility impaired adults, some who are unable to bathe unassisted may need a caregiver or an attendant to complete this normal, essential task.
Below are a few useful suggestions for caregivers and families who confront this very sensitive situation.
Assisted Bathing: Challenges & Solutions
Caregivers face a range of care giving challenges. Managing bath time is oftentimes one of them. Bathing an older adult can feel awkward, uncomfortable and even embarrassing. But with discussion, patience and a willingness to find solutions, these problems can be successfully overcome.
Challenge 1: Embarrassment & Physical Modesty
For so many seniors, privacy and dignity are important. However, when assistance is needed for bathing, compromises may need to be made. To handle this delicate issue, caregivers can try the following:
- Explain what will be done, before bathing, to put the bather at ease.
- Discuss the need for modesty and feelings of embarrassment.
- Use a shower curtain, or large towel, to shield the bather while undressing.
- Place a towel over private areas and only lift it for cleansing. Or, allow the bather to do it him/herself.
Challenge 2: Inaccessible Bathroom or Bathtub
A senior-friendly environment is safe and adapted to accommodate wheelchairs, power chairs and other mobility aids. Improving the accessibility and convenience of the bathroom can only make bathing easier.
- An easy-to-use and easy-to-install bath lift makes bathing more relaxing.
- Handrails and/or grab bars along the edge of the tub and the wall add support and stability.
- Modifying the bathroom for the senior who uses a power wheelchair to conduct activities of daily living would be ideal. Consult with an aging-in-place professional for details and resources.
Challenge 3: Washing, Rinsing, Drying
Normal steps for successful, assisted bathing include:
- Keeping the temperature of the bathroom and bath water comfortable for the bather.
- Lifting, transferring and assisting the bather into and out of the bathtub.1
- Washing the body from the top down. Shampoo first, then clean the face, the neck and so on.
- Rinsing from the top down, with water that is just as warm as the bath water to avoid chills.
- Drying gently with a towel, then immediately wrapping the bather in a fresh towel or robe so that they stay warm.2
With the right approach, and respect for an older adult's need for dignity, comfort and safety, bath time can be much less stressful. It might even become an opportunity to build a closer, more rewarding relationship between the caregiver and the one being cared for.
The contents of this article are intended for informational and educational purposes only.
1Physical size, weight, strength and gender of both the caregiver and bather might create lifting challenges. Always seek the advice of a medical and/or mobility-related professional who is familiar with the particulars of the specific situation.
2Individual preferences and situations apply.