8 Tips for Making Bathing Fun for Seniors

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8 tips for making bathing fun for seniors

Bathing is a basic necessity, but for seniors, it can sometimes be a challenging and monotonous task. As caregivers, it’s our responsibility to ensure this task is not only manageable but enjoyable too. This guide is here to help you add a touch of fun and relaxation to the bathing routine of your elderly loved ones, as well as to some elderly people contend with dementia who simply forget to bathe. With these eight simple yet effective tips, you can transform a mundane routine into an enjoyable and rejuvenating experience for seniors, making them look forward to their next bath. Remember, a happy bath can lead to a happy day!

How to Make the Bathing Process a Fun One for Seniors?

1. Create a Safe Bathing Environment

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So, for older adults, bathing is difficult. The fear of slipping and falling in the shower is a predominant one for many elderly people. It’s hard to blame them. Who would want to shower if the process is one that could end up putting you in the hospital?

“Fear can play a factor with senior hygiene, especially if they have dementia,” reports registered nurse Joyce Apperson for Maryland’s Caring Connection Inc., “They may be frightened of the water that comes directly at them from the showerhead, the shower curtain may throw them off or a number of other unexplained fears may be in their mind. Try to empathize with them and work with what their fear is; sometimes simply allowing them to hold their own shower head & direct the water as they like can reduce the fears they may be having.”

2. Check the Water Temperature

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Older adults are more susceptible to burns. This is because the sensitivity of their skin picks up the heat – and cold, for that matter – a lot quicker than their younger counterparts. Ensure that extreme water temperatures never deter your elderly loved one from wanting to bathe. Secure a warm water temperature before they climb into the tub. On behalf of Senior Safety Advice, Robin Schiltz suggests that you simply use your hand to check the water’s temperature.

“Normally warm water is a good temperature for most people,” she writes, “If the water is too hot, make sure you balance it with cold. An anti-scald valve that we mentioned above will help prevent the water temperature from getting too hot. Don’t crank the cold knob too far in one direction, though, as a freezing shower isn’t very comfortable, either.”

3. Personalizing the Bathing Experience

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Make it so that your elderly loved one doesn’t have to bend over or stretch for any bathing necessity. All soaps, body washes, shampoos, conditioners, and wash rags must be placed within reach. Consider how the senior in your life likes to bathe. Do they prefer sitting or standing? This will determine exactly where to place all of the bathing supplies.

“Oftentimes, soap and shampoo reside in a basket hanging from the showerhead or high up on a shower wall shelf,” notes Nebraska’s Home Instead, “That might be convenient for a person who can safely stand up in the tub or shower, but it’s out of reach for the seated senior, and it poses a potential danger to a family caregiver who must take her attention off the senior relative being bathed in order to reach these supplies.”

4. Start From The Top Down

Ruth goes on to explain that it’s important to wash your elderly loved one’s face first. Be sure that his/her eyes are closed! “You will want to use water only or very mild face wash,” she explains, “Dry their face, then let them hold that hand towel over their eyes while you wash their hair. Encourage them to tip their head back as you do this. Work quickly, but don’t forget how wonderful a scalp massage feels.”

5. Allow Your Loved One to Bathe Independently

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Keep in mind that one of the top emotional issues that seniors battle with is the loss of independence. Imagine requiring help for everyday tasks that you take for granted you can do alone. Help to restore some confidence in your elderly loved ones by offering them the opportunity to wash. Offer to help with some more difficult tasks, such as washing hair.

“You can start with either washing their hair or cleaning their body,” suggests Schiltz, “Assuming they want to begin by cleaning the body, a soft sponge or washcloth will be ideal. Get the sponge soapy. The senior could possibly do this themselves, but maybe they can’t get to every part of their body.”

6. Avoid the Power Struggle

Be kind about the issue. Many caregivers fall victim to their own frustrations surrounding their elderly parents not wanting to bathe. Getting into arguments, however, won’t help matters. It’s important to remember that the senior in your home once enjoyed a life where he/she was able to do everything independently. According to Becca Metoyer, the owner and founder of Second Family Home Care in Dallas, Texas, you should avoid the power struggle.

“Sometimes people respond to others directing them, especially family members, with resistance,” she writes, “They don’t want to be ‘told what to do.’ Try to avoid this power struggle. Look for other, more subtle ways to encourage the senior to take a shower. Reverse psychology, such as telling them, ‘It doesn’t matter to me how you look or smell as long as you don’t mind it,’ could help.”

7. Involve Seniors in The Process

An elderly in the bathroom smiling with caregiver

For seniors who are willing to accept assistance with bathing, it’s important for them to understand what is happening. The idea is to replace their loss of independence with knowledge. Informing your elderly loved one about each step of the bathing process will eliminate surprises and help to make the experience more comfortable.

“At every step, let them know what’s going to happen and coach them through it so they can do as much as possible on their own,” encourages DailyLiving.com, “This gives them control and improves self-confidence. Plus, if they know what’s going to happen at every step, they won’t be as scared or anxious.”

8. Post-Bath Care and Comfort

Post-bath care and comfort are integral to making bathing a pleasant experience for seniors. After a bath, it’s essential to ensure that the senior is thoroughly dried to prevent any slips or falls. Use soft, fluffy towels for a comfortable and warm sensation, and pay particular attention to drying between the toes and other crevices. Apply moisturizer to keep their skin healthy and supple, as elder’s skin often tends to be dry. Also, assist in wearing light and comfortable clothes that are easy to get in and out of. Lastly, reward them with a hot cup of tea, coffee, or their other favorite beverage. This will not only help them warm up but also make them look forward to the next bath session.

A Little Help Goes A Long Way

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It’s important to have conversations with the elderly loved one in your life to get to the root cause of his/her refusal to bathe. Addressing the fear of falling may be the first step in helping him/her regain a sense of confidence. Even if you haven’t been able to help the fear subside, it’s important that you go through the bathing process delicately. After all, helping someone to bathe is quite an intrusive process.

How Often Should Seniors Bathe?

The real answer to this question greatly depends on the senior. How active is the individual? Is he/she prone to perspiring? What is the condition of the senior’s skin and hair? How limiting is his/her disability? Keeping these and other factors in mind, it’s wise to consult a medical professional about all of the activities that the older adult in your life can and should participate in.

Now, of course, bathing is necessary. Some experts – Apperson included – suggest that seniors bathe at least once a week. We’re of the mind that bathing should occur a little more often than that, but understand, once again, that it’s a situational matter. CareBuilders at Home agrees that bathing once or twice a week should be ideal for seniors. However, they point out the importance of cleanliness to keep seniors infection-free.

Help to Restore Their Independence – Switch to Shower Bay

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One of the main reasons Forward Day came up with the unique Shower Bay concept is the struggle we knew many families were having with taking care of their elderly loved ones at home. Bathing complications are listed among the greatest difficulties of senior care.

Shower Bay is a safe and portable shower designed for wheelchair users. It provides true showering experiences for those who would usually require bathing assistance. Shower Bay’s unique design allows for quick assembly in any room of the home. It offers wheelchair users full showers with running water while providing privacy and opportunities to bathe with greater independence.

Shower Bay makes it a lot easier for you to encourage your elderly loved one to bathe. If you have any questions about our Shower Bay portable showers, please don’t hesitate to contact Forward Day to ask them. Give us a call at 1-877-593-4461 or email us at info@showerbay.com.

First published: April 1, 2022

Updated: September 21, 2023

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