Tips for Bathing an Elder


Bathing a loved one can be physically and emotionally challenging. When it comes to bathing a senior, consider these tips to ensure the best possible experience for caregiver and care-receiver:


1. Safety First.

Wet surfaces are slippery, so before running the bath water, place a non-slip mat on the floor of the tub. For further cushioning, consider placing a hand towel on top of the mat. The towel can serve as a focal point and will cushion foot landing when your loved one steps in.


2. Check Water Temperature.

Before your loved one steps into the tub, allow the water to run until it reaches a comfortable temperature. Keep in mind that using and controlling certain faucets can be confusing for some seniors. If the water is not already on when your loved one steps in, there is an increased risk of sudden moves once the water starts. After making your own initial adjustments to water temperature, ask or gently assist your loved one in testing the water temperature on their hand. Closely observe their verbal and non-verbal reactions upon testing the water to ensure they will be comfortable.


3. Avoid Sudden Moves.

Sudden moves in any direction may result in a slip, trip, or fall. Caregivers are most helpful when they remain calm while assisting.


4. Minimize How Much You Help.

Each individual has different physical and cognitive limitations. Some seniors are able to bathe and clean their upper body, lower back, and other areas that are within easy reach without assistance. If your loved one is able to properly and safely self-clean and has no medical restrictions, consider allowing as much independence as you can while actively monitoring safety and good hygiene habits, as this will give your loved one a positive sense of independence.


5. Speak Slowly.

Gentle reminders of what will happen next helps make baths go more smoothly. For example:

  • "Please place your hands on the wall ahead of you for support while I lather the back of your legs."

  • "While you are leaning against the wall for support, please lift one of your legs slightly. I will clean the sole of your left foot first."

6. There's No Need to Rush.

To ensure safety and minimize any anxiety felt by your loved one, try to go at a pace that is comfortable and preferred.