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Simple, easy and clean. Discover the best methods of bathing an elderly person

Simple, easy and clean. Discover the best methods of bathing an elderly person

Marc Kaplan |


Understanding how to properly care for the elderly person in your life can be tricky, especially when it comes to home care and cleaning. Not only is it essential that you provide adequate cleaning on a regular basis, but you must also clean the patient with compassion and gentleness. Many elderly patients struggle with personal hygiene when they are on bed rest not only because it is challenging to move, but because it is difficult to be touched without experiencing pain. The right bathing techniques and methods can provide you with many options when you're trying to determine how to bathe an elderly person. When you're ready to understand how to bathe an elderly person, there are several things you need to know.


Before You Begin 

Before you begin understanding how to bathe an elderly person, it's important to acknowledge that many elderly patients may be nervous or uncomfortable with the idea of bathing. Understanding how to bathe an elderly person involves more than just techniques. It also involves compassion. Because many elderly patients struggle to move freely, working to understand how to bathe an elderly person can take time. The most important thing you can do when you're learning how to bathe an elderly person is to communicate openly with the person you're caring for. Chances are that the patient will be more than happy to discuss when something is uncomfortable when it comes time to learn how to bathe an elderly person.


Understanding the Importance of Hygiene

Proper hygiene is an essential part of everyday life for most adults, but if you're learning how to bathe an elderly person, you might not understand just how vital the role of body care is when it comes to caring for the elderly. Many adults who are on bed rest or who have difficulty moving around may struggle with personal hygiene. As a caregiver, it's important that you explain how body wash and elderly hair care works in an at-home setting and that you're able to provide comfortable, compassionate care for the elderly person in your life.


What You Need to Know About Bed Baths

Bed baths are an essential part of home bathing care for many elderly adults. Before you begin to offer a bed bath, ensure that you have the right supplies ready and easily accessible. For a bed bath, you'll need a variety of items, including:

  • Body wash
  • Towels
  • A waterproof sheet
  • Warm water
  • Two water containers

When you give a bed bath, it's important to understand that many patients are embarrassed or uncomfortable with the idea of someone giving them a bath. Make sure you focus on the elderly person's comfort as much as possible. Although offering a bath may seem like a difficult task, the truth is that it is a relatively simple process once you get started.

It's a good idea to prepare the bed ahead of time for the bath. You may want to cover the bed with a waterproof sheet in case water drips onto the mattress. If this isn't a possible option, simply place towels beneath and around the elderly person prior to the bath.

When you bathe an elderly person, understand that he or she may become cold. To avoid this, make sure you turn up the temperature in the room and keep them covered as much as possible during the bath. You should only uncover the part of the body you are cleaning at any given time. This is to ensure the patient is as comfortable and warm as possible.

Begin by washing the top of the body. Start with the shoulders and carefully use body wash to clean the elderly person. Move down each side of the body using body wash and warm water to clean. Rinse their body with warm water using a separate wash cloth and the water you have set aside for rinsing. It's very important to get all of the body wash off of the person's skin. Understand that any soap left behind may dry, causing skin irritation for the elderly person. Because many elderly people are prone to dryness, rashes, and itchy skin, getting the soap completely off becomes even more important.

After you wash and rinse the person, use a towel to gently pat them dry. Take care to be gentle and avoid vigorous rubbing of the skin. Wash one side of the person's body and then the other. At the end, carefully wash the person's private parts. While many elderly patients may be nervous or uncomfortable with this, compassion goes a long way in ensuring this is not an embarrassing experience for them. Make sure you dry the area completely, and then cover the elderly person back up.

Once you've washed the person's body, you may move on to no rinse waterless shampoo. If the elderly person prefers that you wash their hair with water, you may do so at that time. Make sure you discuss the options for using a shampoo cap for elderly patients and waterless shampoo for people. It's important to offer the elderly patient as many options as possible. Being on bed rest is a challenge, but offering the patient the choice of a shampoo cap for elderly or waterless shampoo for people provides them with a bit of control in their life.


Understanding Elderly Hair Care

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of caring for the elderly is ensuring you offer proper and adequate elderly hair care. It's important that you realize elderly hair care differs from hair care offered to younger people. As adults age, their hair changes and their requirements for hair care change, too. Elderly hair care doesn't have to be a stressful experience for anyone involved, and with the right understanding and compassionate attitude, it's possible to make it a comfortable experience.

First off, discuss the options for waterless shampoo for people. No rinse waterless shampoo is a reasonable option for many elderly patients. Always discuss the process of waterless shampoo for people so the elderly person can voice his or her opinion as to how their hair will be cared for. For patients interested in body wash, there’s also a no rinse body wash option available, too. Part of offering understanding, compassionate care means giving choices as much as possible.

If the person you're caring for is considering waterless shampoo for people, you may want to utilize a no rinse shampoo cap for elderly patients. A shampoo cap for elderly adults offers a safe, simple no rinse waterless shampoo option. Simply place the shampoo cap for elderly patients on the person's head and massage it gently. The cap contains cleaning agents that will work to carefully and gently clean the hair without water. A no rinse waterless shampoo option is fantastic for adults who may not want to get their hair completely wet. A no rinse waterless shampoo option also ensures the patient doesn't have to go through the process of blow-drying their hair after a cleaning.

Another option for elderly hair care is to offer a full shampoo in bed. You can select a water basin specifically designed for washing hair in bed. This ensures the patient doesn't need to move or leave their bed in order to have their hair washed. Remember to check the water temperature, as you don't want it to be too hot or too cold for comfort. Cover the top portion of the bed with towels before you place the basin there. Then you can simply wash the elderly patient's hair as usual. Make sure you towel dry their hair gently and thoroughly after you wash it to ensure they're as comfortable as possible after having their hair washed.


When You're Finished

After you assist the elderly patient with cleaning and bathing, make sure you follow-up with continued care. While most elderly patients don't require full body wash or baths every day, it is important that you offer care on a regular basis. At the minimum, you'll need to wash the elderly patient's face and private parts each day. Armpits are also important to clean on a daily basis. Full bed baths can be offered as needed, but should be given regularly to ensure the patient is as clean as possible while he or she receives care at home.

Additionally, always listen to the patient's needs, thoughts, and opinions. Understand that if a patient complains or feels fussy when it's time for the bath, he or she may simply be embarrassed or nervous. Talk with the patient about ways you can make them more comfortable during this process and implement those suggestions as much as possible. Sometimes a few simple changes can make a world of difference when it comes to caring for an elderly patient in their home. Most importantly, always focus on the care and comfort of the patient when you're working to help him or her take a bath. Although you might be comfortable with the idea of offering a bath or no rinse waterless shampoo care, some adults are nervous about this process, so it's very important that you focus on offering patient-centered care to each elderly person.


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On to you

What experiences do you have washing elderly people, or is this your first time performing this task? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. We hope you found this post valuable. Please feel free to call us directly if you have any questions.


Marc Kaplan — Save Rite Medical CEO

-Marc Kaplan

CEO, Save Rite Medical


Marc Kaplan is founder and CEO of Save Rite Medical — the leading provider of wholesale medical supplies. A salesman by day and educator by night, Marc enjoys providing valuable ways and alternatives to living a healthier lifestyle.