How to Help an Elderly Person to Take a Bath

Last Updated: 12.04.24


For an elderly person, taking a bath can be a dangerous task. Getting in and out of a bathtub, as well as walking on wet floors, are recipes for disasters, and that is why many senior people prefer not to take baths that often since they fear for their safety.

That is why assistive support is required. Caregivers are, however, demanded that they know how to ensure safety measures during a bath, and also how to earn the older adult’s trust and cooperation. Here are some essential tips that will help you take care better of a senior during bath time.

  1. Safety always comes first

It is natural for seniors to fear to step on wet surfaces, which is why you need to take these measures first. Place a non-slip bathtub mat on the bottom of the tub before you begin filling it. Make sure that you help the senior step into the tub by holding him or her by one hand and by gently supporting the back.

Anything else that can make the bathroom a safer place helps. Installing handles that the elderly can use for the secure navigation of the bathroom is a costlier solution than a simple bathtub mat, but it also makes the senior feel safer. Seniors should always use non-slip slippers in the bathroom.


  1. Adjust the water temperature to a comfortable level

It is essential that the water gathered in the tub is at a warm temperature. If the water is too cold, or too hot, the senior might make sudden moves, taking you by surprise, and that, in turn, can lead to injuries.

It is not enough that you test the water with your hand. Also check it on the back of the older adult’s hand, to see if he or she is comfortable with it. Only when you’re sure that the water temperature will not cause any unpleasant surprises, you can help the senior into the bathtub.


  1. Consider limitations in movement and cognitive abilities

Seniors with deficiencies in their movement range, or their cognitive skills, might require more assistance with washing. You may decide to use a bath seat for elderly citizens if the senior cannot lie down in the bathtub. This will allow you some more freedom of movement and the possibility to reach more difficult-to-wash areas.

Make sure that you understand what the older adult you’re assisting can and cannot do. Even people who are chronically ill can wash the upper part of their bodies without assistance. Allowing the persons you care for to maintain their dignity is essential so, depending on how mobile they are in their range of movement, you should allow more bath independence.


  1. Always explain your actions and talk in a gentle, unrushed voice

For many seniors, taking a bath is a challenging event. That is why you must be able to offer all the assistive support you can give. One recommendation caregiving specialists provide is that you always explain what you are going to do next, and to do it in an unrushed manner. That will create reasonable expectations for both parties and will reduce annoyance and other unpleasant mishaps.

Explain what part of the body you intend to wash next and guide the senior person slowly. If you use shower seats to help bathe the elderly in your care, talk about how you are going to guide the shower head to wash off the soap lather from the senior’s body. Remember never to use sudden movements, as you don’t want to take the other person by surprise.

  1. Schedule enough time for this type of task

You cannot be in a hurry when you give an older adult a bath. If you don’t have enough time at your disposal, schedule it for another time when you know that there will not be other things on your to-do list.

This will serve for more than to help you avoid any annoyances with being too busy to perform such a task correctly. It will give the person in your care a sense of assurance and will prevent any anxieties related to taking a bath.


  1. Use mild, anti-bacterial soap

One thing you should know is that an older adult’s skin goes through transformations with age, and it can become fragile and dry. This is why it’s highly recommended that the soap you are using is mild and anti-bacterial. Regular soap can be too aggressive for a senior’s skin, causing small breaks and fissures in the skin. These tiny wounds can attract and become home to bacteria, which is why caregivers are keen about this recommendation.


  1. Ease the tension

You should never forget to offer proper support and take care of preserving the assisted person’s dignity. If the elderly in your care manifests aversion toward taking a bath, you need to learn what could be the cause.

Some people may feel embarrassed. To avoid such situations, use a small privacy towel that will act as a curtain between you and the lower part of the elderly’s body. Approach the situation as something normal, and make small conversation to ease the tension. The more normal you act, the more relieved and at ease the senior will be, too.

Don’t forget that there can be underlying causes for the senior’s resistance to take a bath. When the senior is fearful of falling and hurting himself or herself, it is your job to alleviate those fears. Remember the earlier recommendations on how to add more safety features to the bathroom layout to ensure that accidents are reduced to a minimum if not zero.

In case depression is at the root of the senior’s resistance to take a bath, you might have more work ahead of you. Be patient and take your time to explain to the assisted person why he or she should take a bath, and make a pleasant experience out of it.



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