How To Give a Bed Bath

How To Give a Bed Bath

Bathing or showering is an important daily task because it helps prevent infection and keeps your loved one feeling fresh and clean. For individuals that are less mobile and confined to bed, a bed bath may be necessary. This is often called a sponge bath, but washcloths can be used too. It is fully possible to give a full bath in bed without getting the bed sheets wet.

How Often Should It Be Done?

You can give a bed bath 2 or 3 times a week. For older adults, bathing more often than this can increase the risk for skin problems, such as sores.

Keep in mind it is most productive to let your loved one clean himself or herself as much as possible. As you help, act straightforward but calm. This help can be awkward and embarrassing for you and your loved one. This may be especially true if you are caring for an opposite-sex parent. If you don't act embarrassed or upset, your loved one will feel less self-conscious.

How Do You Give a Bed Bath?

To give a bed bath, you will need:

  • Four or more washcloths or bath sponges.
  • Three or more towels.
  • Two wash basins (one for soapy water, one for rinsing).
  • Soap (a bar of soap, liquid soap, or wipes).
  • "No-tears" or baby shampoo or no-rinse shampoo.
  • Body lotion.
  • A waterproof cloth to keep the bed dry.
  • A table or stand to hold the materials.

Get ready:

  • Ask your loved one if the room is too warm or too cool, and change the temperature if needed.
  • Make sure that the bed is high enough so that you don't hurt your back. If it is low, it is okay to put your knee on the bed to reach over and bathe the person.
  • Place a waterproof mat or sheet under the person to keep the bed dry.
  • For privacy, make sure the door is shut and the blinds or drapes are closed.

Some things to remember:

  • After you or your loved one washes an area, turn the washcloth so you can use a new, clean part of it for the next area. Use a new washcloth when you need one.
  • Check the skin for redness or sores as you assist. Pay special attention to areas with creases, such as beneath the breasts or the folds on the stomach. Also look at the groin area and bony areas, such as the elbows and shoulders.

The Steps

1. Fill two basins with warm water. One is for soaping up a washcloth and wringing it out. The second basin holds clear, warm water for rinsing off the soap with a washcloth.

2. Wash and dry your hands.

3. Test the water to make sure it's not too hot.

4. Think about whether to wear gloves, especially if the person has been ill. It's a good idea to wear a mask if the person has a contagious illness, such as the flu.

5. Let the person undress and wash as much as he or she is able. Remove clothing only from the area you are going to wash. For example, uncover an arm, wash and dry it, and then put it back into a shirt or gown.

6. Wash with the washcloth and soapy water or wipes, and then rinse using another washcloth and the clear water.

7. Start with the cleanest areas of the body and finish with the areas that are less clean. Get the washcloth ready for your loved one to wash himself or herself. Or you can gently wash the person if they are unable.

  • Wash the eyelids, starting from the inside and moving out.
  • Wash the face, ears, and neck.
  • Wash the arms one at a time, and then the hands.
  • Wash the chest and belly, including the belly button.
  • Wash one leg, and then the other.
  • Wash the feet and in between the toes.
  • Help the person roll on his or her side so you can wash the back side. (If you can't roll a person by yourself, get someone to help you so that you don't hurt your back.) Then help the person roll on his or her back.
  • Pour out the water (which by now may be cold) and replace it with fresh warm water.
  • Using a new washcloth, clean the genital area first and then the anal area.

8. Remove gloves if you are wearing them. Change the water and wash the hair. You can use water and "no-tears" or baby shampoo or a no-rinse shampoo. Look carefully at the scalp for any redness or sores.

9. Apply an unscented body lotion to protect the skin and keep it from becoming dry. Don't put lotion on areas that can become moist, such as under the breasts or in the folds of the groin.

10. Help the person as needed to finish dressing.

11. Put away your supplies and wash your hands.


Source: PeaceHealth Caregiving: How to Give a Bed Bath