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How to Bathe an Elderly Person

Believe it or not, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house regardless of age, but for those sixty-five and older, the bathroom can become even more hazardous. Getting in and out of the bath, as well as navigating wet floors can take special consideration for the older adult and their family caregivers.

Up to two-thirds of emergency room visits are due to injuries in or near a person’s shower or tub. While some of these injuries are caused by getting into the tub, nearly 10% happen while getting out of the tub.

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In fact, over 30% of older adults will have a fall each year, and of those individuals that do fall, 30% will suffer moderate to severe injuries which can include head traumas and hip fractures. In 2011, approximately 23,000 elderly adults died from a fall. Interestingly enough, according to CDC statistics, men are more likely to die from a fall than women.

Due to the serious nature that bathroom accidents present to older adults, here are four tips that a family caregiver should consider before bathing the elderly.

How to Bathe an Elderly Person

To ensure that the older adult in your life is able to maintain proper hygiene while, at the same time, staying safe, some assistance may be necessary. The following are four tips that can help.

  1. Bed Bath – For older adults who are bedridden, it will be impossible to move them to the bathroom for a bath. One option is to give them a bed bath. This technique has been used for years, but it does take a little planning. Do have plenty of bath towels and washcloths available before you start.

You will also need two bowls – one for clean water and one for rinsing. Before you begin, have a plan on which area of the body you will start with and where you will move from there. Then follow a wash, rinse, and dry pattern for the whole body.

  1. Bathroom Assistive Devices – If your loved one can make it into the bathroom, ensuring they have assistance getting in and out of the tub or shower can be very helpful in keeping them safe. A grab bar allows the older adult to steady themselves as they step in and out of the tub.

The bathroom grab bar height and bathroom grab bar placement are of utmost importance. Placement and height are not one-size-fits-all. The grab bar should be placed at a height that will allow the specific individual to gain hold without having to reach too far up or down.

  1. Sponge Bathing – Before you begin a sponge bath, be sure to have everything you need ready and available. You want to keep the older adult as comfortable and warm as possible. This means you should plan on washing the body in sections and keeping the rest of the body covered.

It is best to start with the face area and work your way down. As privacy can be an issue for some older adults as well, it is important to only uncover one section at a time and try to talk or tell a story to keep them preoccupied, so they are not as focused on modesty.

  1. Transfer Bench – Getting in and out of the tub can be quite dangerous for the older adult due to mobility issues or not being able to lift their leg high enough to make it over the top of the tub. A transfer bench sits partway in the tub and partway out. The individual sits down on the outside and then slowly slides their body to the inside of the tub. This allows the person to enter and exit the tub while seated.

While the bathroom can be a dangerous location for the older adult and bathing can seem daunting, with these tips, you can provide a safe bathing experience for your loved one.

We would love for you to share your family caregiving tips around bathing your loved one safely in the comments below.