Easy TIPS on How to Bathe an Elderly Person

Understanding how to properly bathe a person is arguably among the most challenging aspects of senior care. Besides the physical hygiene requirements, a caregiver must also show gentleness and compassion. The bathing needs for older adults vary from one person to another, but there are general guidelines one can follow. This article will go over some good practices for how to bathe an elderly person and ensure their hygiene standards are met.

How Often Should the Elderly Bathe or Shower

For most people, daily bathing is an essential component of excellent personal hygiene. However, advanced age comes with changes to this generally accepted notion. Seniors bathe less frequently [1] and for various reasons. There is no scientifically-backed recommendation about how many times an elderly person should take a bath. The frequency varies greatly from one senior to another. Here are some reasons why older adults bathe less.

  • Significantly drier skin: As a person ages, their skin tends to become drier and more susceptible to injuries. Taking a bath less frequently reduces the chances of banging into something or skin injuries resulting from hot water.
  • Skin infections: Since seniors have drier skin, they are more prone to conditions such as cracked skin or infections. Taking fewer baths minimizes the skin’s exposure to external conditions and potential pathogens.
  • Immunity concerns: According to Robert Shmerling [2], taking baths too frequently can compromise one’s immunity system. One theory surrounding this notion is that the microorganisms on our skin stimulate the immune system in some way. Cleaning off too many of these microorganisms leaves the skin exposed to possible infections.
  • Slip and fall injuries: As people get older, their muscles weaken, and their overall sense of balance reduces. Taking baths less frequently reduces the chances of slip-and-fall accidents occurring.
  • Less odor: As a person gets older, their skin produces fewer oils, reducing the necessity to take showers meant to reduce body odors.

How to Get an Elderly Person in the Bath

Here is a guide on getting an older adult into a bath using some common bath aids.

When Using Bath Steps

Using this tool is quite straightforward. The caregiver places the bath steps next to a bathing tub, making it immensely easier for the senior to walk into the tub. It is worth noting that this aid is only useful for seniors who still have leg muscle strength and balance. Some advanced bath steps come with handles and step adjustability.

Using Bathroom Grab Rails

Grab rails are quite important in ensuring the safety and mobility of seniors in the bathroom. Basically, these bath aids are fixed on walls and bathtubs to give the elderly person something to hold on to. Besides enhancing safety, these rails also complement the limited muscle strength synonymous with older adults. If your loved one has sufficient muscle strength to get into a bathtub gradually, grab rails might be the only accessories you require.

Using an Inflatable Bath Cushion

Inflatable bath cushions are beneficial for seniors who enjoy baths but cannot get over the significant thresholds found in most tubs. Basically, the waterproof inflatable cushion lowers and raises the senior into and out of the tub as required. The cushions come equipped with battery compressors, responsible for the raising and lowering.

Using a Bath Seat

A bath seat is another ideal option for a senior who needs help getting into and out of a bathtub. The chair is essentially an elevated seat onto which the senior sits instead of sitting on the bathtub floor. If other people use the tub, the bath seat can be easily removed when not in use.

Using a Bath Board

A bath board provides an easy-to-use stepped approach into the bathtub. Regular bathtubs can be quite tricky to get into, especially for people with reduced muscle strength. Bath boards are best used with bath chairs. However, they can also be used as standalone bath aids on which the senior would then have to use a shower head to clean up.

Using a Bath Lift

A bath lift is a significantly advanced bathroom aid designed with an adjustable section that helps the user get in and out of a bath. If your loved one can comfortably operate the electrically-controlled lift, then all you need to do is get them onto the lift. If, on the other hand, they cannot, you will need to get them onto the lift and then lower and raise them as required.

Using a Bath Transfer Bench

This device is also known as a shower bench. It is perfect for seniors who have trouble getting into a bathtub or standing in a shower. The transfer bench attaches to the bathtub side, allowing a senior to sit on it and slide effortlessly into the tub.

How to Bathe an Elderly Person

The best procedure when bathing a senior depends on their level of dependence, availability of bathroom aids, and the senior’s preferences. Here is a look at the general steps for sponge baths, bed baths, and regular baths.

Bed Baths

A bed bath is probably the best way to get a senior cleaned up if they are bedridden. The technique for a good bed bath takes some time to get used to, but it becomes quite easy once you perfect it. For the task, you will need several washcloths and bath towels. You will also need water in two different containers; one for cleaning water and another for rinsing water. You should then follow a wash-rinse-dry pattern for the entire body.

For Regular Baths with Bathroom Assistive Devices

If the senior you are taking care of has sufficient muscle strength and balance, please feel free to assist them in bathing the old-fashioned way. However, ensure that they make use of the available bathroom aids for their safety and convenience. Grab bars, and non-slip mats should be installed on the necessary areas. If the senior can bathe by him or herself, all you need to do is help them get into the tub. However, if they require further assistance, help them wash, rinse, and drain the tub.

Sponge Baths

Before embarking on a sponge bath, ensure you have all the necessary items available and easily accessible. Once you confirm this, plan on cleaning the senior’s entire body one part at a time while keeping the other parts covered. For sponge baths, it is advisable to start with the face, working your way downwards. Since some seniors might have privacy issues, try and keep them preoccupied so that they don’t dwell too much on the bath’s ongoings.

Useful Tips for Bathing an Elderly Person

Here are a few essential tips to remember when bathing an older adult.

Respect is Key

One of the most disrespectful things you can do to an older adult is to remove all of their clothes, soap them, and rinse them in an abruptly-delivered bucketful of water. Since the senior is probably quite self-aware, accord them the respect they deserve. It is worth remembering that we all get old at some point and might require assistance.

Keep Them Preoccupied

Activities such as storytelling, music, and conversations help take the older adult’s mind off the bathing process. In the absence of such activities, the senior might focus too much on the process, resulting in discomfort and possible awkwardness.

Always be Prepared

Before any bath session, ensure you have the senior’s favorite towels, lotions, shampoo, and soap ready. You wouldn’t want to be trying to locate these items when the older adult is all soaked up or soapy. Immediately, when the bath is over, ensure to wrap them in warm, large towels. Doing this enhances privacy and provides much-needed warmth.

Keep the Senior Comfortable

Comfort, in this case, has to do with several aspects; water temperature, room temperature, lighting, and music, among others. Additionally, always ask the person whether they would prefer to wash their private areas. It would be best if you didn’t assume that they automatically need assistance doing it. As a basic rule, you should try to limit the time the older adult stays naked.

Use Reminders

You can come up with gentle reminders to let the senior know that their bath time is coming up. If the person is reluctant to take a bath, schedule time to determine the reason behind their reluctance. You can also try switching from regular baths to sponge baths to find out which one the senior loves more.


Bathing an older adult might sound overly complicated for most of us, and rightly so. The task requires quite some getting used to, compassion, and skill. However, by following the practices, guides, and tips outlined in this article, you will easily get the hang of it.


  1. https://dailycaring.com/senior-bathing-whats-really-necessary/
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/showering-daily-is-it-necessary-2019062617193
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