How to Give an Elderly Person a Shower

For many of us, showering has always just been part of regular programming. We do it in the morning before heading out to work, or at night to wash off the stress of the day. It’s not something we normally think too much about, but it’s a totally different story for our elderly loved ones. They may struggle to get in or out of the shower or find themselves in need of assistance. That’s why it’s important for caregivers in the family to learn how to give an elderly person a shower. 

While you don’t necessarily have to wash your elderly parent or family member every day since they’re not as active as they’re used to, it’s still a good rule of thumb to shower at least once or twice a week. You might need to do it a bit more frequently if the weather is hot, or if the senior has been more active than normal to get rid of body odor and bacteria. 

Despite them knowing the importance of showering when it comes to good hygiene, you might actually find yourself having a hard time convincing your elderly parents to take one. This is normal, and at times, expected for those who have Azheimer’s or Dementia. Aside from the fear that accidents might happen, running water can trigger anxiety and hallucinations of drowning or getting sucked into the shower drain. It can also be very challenging for the elderly to go through the motions of showering such as bending or standing, no longer having the bodily strength of their younger years. 

To help you keep them clean, here are a few, simple ways on how to convince someone to take a shower:

  • Ask someone else to assist them. Everyone has a role to play. If your elderly parent is more comfortable with another family member, let them be the one to help them shower. 
  • Try a different phrase. Perhaps ‘bathing’ or ‘showering’ already has a negative connotation for them. Instead, call it ‘cleaning up’ or ‘washing up’, then create a positive association with the phrase. 
  • Upgrade their shower. Alleviate their anxiety by installing handlebars or adding a comfortable chair. You can also spruce it up a bit with speakers that play relaxing music and even add in their favorite calming fragrance to make the once dreadful chore a little more appealing. 
  • Keep showers quick. If they’re averse to showering, it will only make it worse for them the longer the process takes. Try to be swift about it to keep your elderly parent from being agitated. 
  • Create a schedule. Reincorporate showers back into their routine. This will help them think of them less as a stressful event and more as a part of their day-to-day life. 

Once you’ve convinced your elderly parent to take a shower, here’s how you do it:

Step 1: Prep the supplies

What you normally use in the shower will differ from what your loved one will require. Make sure your shower is equipped with supplies that can maximize their comfort and convenience:

  • Hand-held shower – you will need a shower head that detaches to reach every part of the body
  • Mild shampoo – use a mild formula in case the shampoo gets into their eyes
  • Liquid soap and sponge – might be easier and less abrasive on the skin than a bar of soap
  • Grab bars or handlebars – to help keep them steady and prevent any falls
  • Shower chair or bench – they may not be able to sustain long periods of standing
  • Non-slip mats – to prevent them from falling down
  • Cover-up robe – to help them keep their privacy

Step 2: Prep the shower

Once you have all your materials ready, run the shower and check the water temperature with your hand. You don’t want them stepping into it while it’s too hot or too cold. An anti-scald valve can help prevent it from getting too hot. 

As you’re doing this, let  your elderly parent undress and change into their cover-up robe in private. 

Step 3: Lead them to the shower

As soon as everything is all set up, slowly guide them to the shower. Make sure they’re holding onto either you or the handlebar to prevent them from slipping or stumbling. Once there, have the senior sit on the shower chair to start washing. 

They can drape a towel around themselves after taking off their cover-up robe to reduce any awkwardness they might feel. 

Step 4: Help them wash

Allow them to wash on their own if they can. Some elderly people can handle showers, in which case, all you need to do is assist them by handing them the necessary items they will need to reduce the strain on their body. 

If they can’t manage on their own, then you can take over the process and start by washing their hair. Use a mild formula and lather it on. If you want to save time, you can also try using a no-rinse shampoo and conditioner. 

Next, grab the sponge and your liquid soap. Gently wash the face, then the arms, torso and back. The rule of thumb is to move from the cleanest areas to the dirtiest ones. While doing so, make sure to take note of sores, rashes, or anything that might need to be reported to their doctor. 

Allow them to clean their private parts on their own, unless they’re really unable to do so. Afterwards, rinse everything off. Turn the shower off and help them dry. If they’re prone to skin dryness, help them apply lotion if they can’t do it themselves. Afterwards, help them put on their robe and slowly guide them out of the shower to put their clothes on. 

Showering is an intimate process and having an elderly person allow you to assist them speaks volumes on how much they trust you. However, learning how to give an elderly person a shower is just one of the many things a caregiver must know in order to take care of their loved ones. 



How to Transfer a Patient from Bed to Wheelchair

Safety is very important when it comes to taking care of a patient. Whenever you’re required to transfer a patient from bed to wheelchair, always remember that clear communication is important to minimize potential risks. If the patient is unable to help you, then the transfer will require two people or a full-body sling lift. 

It takes strength and coordination to be able to move in and out of a wheelchair. Some people are able to do this on their own, but some need assistance. Caregivers will need to know how to properly prepare for the transfer as well as how to position themselves while doing so. 

Key things to remember

  • Make sure the wheelchair is as close as possible to where you are moving the person, to lessen the strain on the muscles during the move. 
  • When transferring from bed to wheelchair, do so on the stronger side of the person’s body to prevent falling.
  • Keep the wheelchair locked while a person is moving in or out of it to reduce the risk of accidents. 
  • Move any foot pedal or leg rest out of the way.
  • As much as possible, use a gait belt to prevent injuries. 
  • Bend your knees while transferring to protect your back.
  • Practice first under the supervision of a more experienced caregiver to ensure smooth transfers.

Step 1 : Prepare for the transfer

Move the wheelchair directly next to the surface of the bed. You can opt for a slight angle around 30-45 degrees, but it’s not mandatory. Lock the brakes and move any possible obstruction out of the way. Communicate clearly with the person you are transferring so that you can make adjustments depending on his or her condition. This also syncs both of your efforts, making the transfer a lot smoother.

Step 2:  Sit them up

Explain what you’re about to do clearly to the person you’re transferring, so that there are no surprises. Once everything is set, turn them on their side so that they’re facing the wheelchair. Next, put an arm under their neck, with your hand supporting the shoulder blade. Then put your other hand under the knees. Swing the legs over the edge of the bed, so that they’re sitting up.

Step 3: Help them stand

First, let them scoot to the edge of the bed. Then, help them put on skid-proof socks or shoes to prevent them from slipping. Once done, put your arms around the chest and clasp your hands behind their back. Alternatively, you may also use a transfer belt for a firmer handhold. Lean back, shift your weight, and then lift them up from the bed until their feet are firmly on the ground. 

Step 4:  Pivot toward the wheelchair

Continue to clasp your hands around the patient while having them pivot toward the wheelchair. If there’s another caregiver present, have them support either the wheelchair or the patient from behind. If you have a gait belt, place it on the patient for better grip during the transfer. As they are turning, the person being transferred can either hold onto you or reach for the wheelchair for balance. 

Step 5:  Sit them down

As soon as their legs are touching the seat of the wheelchair, bend your knees to help lower them into the seat. If there is another caregiver, they can help position the buttocks of the person being transferred and support the chair. Reposition the foot and arm rests and help them shuffle in their seat to be comfortable. 

Transferring a patient from the bed to the wheelchair is just one of the many responsibilities a caregiver has to juggle on a daily basis. CircleOf was made specifically to help caregivers manage their tasks, stay connected with other caregivers, privately share information, and coordinate care so that these tasks can either be delegated or split between two helpers. Caregiving can be challenging at times, but it’s always a rewarding experience.


Mental Health

How to Talk to a Parent with Dementia

Whenever a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, communication can be challenging, even more so when it’s your parent. People who suffer from Dementia or Alzheimer’s typically have trouble expressing their thoughts and relaying how they feel. 

Despite the limitations, there are ways to help you retain your strong connection with a loved one. It’s important to stay patient and calm so that they won’t feel frustrated whenever they’re not able to communicate as they previously could. 

Here are some tips on how to talk to a parent with dementia:

Less distraction, more conversation

A quiet place has always been conducive to conversation—this is especially so when you are dealing with a dementia patient.

Background noise, whether it’s music or other people’s conversation, can distract and trigger confusion. It’s important to find a place where your loved one can focus on his or her thoughts without being disturbed by external things. 

Take it slow and prioritize clarity

When having a conversation with your loved one, always remember that they’re not as quick to pick up on things as they used to. So speak clearly, and calmly. Then, give them time to take it all in. 

You don’t have to increase your volume or over-explain what you mean. Just keep it short, sweet, and with pauses in between.

Remind them of fond memories

It pays to not come empty-handed. When you bring an old photo, or play a favorite song, it can help remind your loved one of some of their fondest memories. This can be something the two of you can talk about at length. 

However, pay close attention to their reaction. If they’re not recalling anything from the memorabilia, it’s best to change the course of conversation into something that won’t trigger feelings of frustration or anxiety from them.

Words are not the only way to talk

Even before learning words, babies and very young children can understand feelings of being safe with a simple touch from a parent. The same principle applies when you’re caring for a parent with dementia. 

There are times when a simple act of holding a loved one’s hand can communicate warmth and care more than if words were used. Don’t be afraid to reach out. This can be beneficial to both the caregiver and the one being cared for. 

Walk down memory lane together

Sometimes we can fall into the trap of asking our loved ones if they remember certain people, places, or events in their lives. Despite the good intention, it can cause anxiety or feelings of frustration should your loved one fail to remember. Instead, make the conversation less of a probe and more of a mutual reminiscing, where the loved one can chime in but would feel no pressure to do so. 

Empower your loved one

Whenever they struggle for words, refrain from taking over and finishing their sentences for them. Patience is important whenever you’re talking to someone with dementia. Always remember that lashing out or cutting them off can only lead to anxiety and weaken the connection you have with each other. 

Silence is part of the conversation

Dementia changes people. Your once gregarious parent can be significantly less talkative than you’re used to. That’s totally normal. Lulls in conversation are expected so take the silence as part of the conversation and not something you have to fill in. Your presence is enough comfort. 

Tech is your friend

Even if busy schedules, other responsibilities or circumstances prevent you from visiting in person, you can still find a way to talk to your loved one. If you can opt for a video call, do so. Seeing your face can be easier for them to engage with, compared to just hearing your voice over the phone.

Follow their schedule

Plan your visit around a time of the day you know your loved one is more receptive to conversation. Consider their routine and mood to find the right opportunity to engage in conversation. Some can get confused and anxious in the late afternoon or early evening, so it might be better to look for another opportunity. Having a log of times and the kind of conversation you had with your loved one can help you determine the best hour to call or visit in the future. 

Conversation goes both ways

You don’t have to always be the one steering the conversation. Allow your parent to talk about whatever they’re feeling at the moment. It’s important to give them a space to freely express their thoughts or emotions. No matter the topic, just be present and enjoy the ride.

Make your questions pointed

The simplest way to start an activity or spark a conversation is by asking a simple yes or no question. Instead of giving them the task of thinking of an activity or topic, come armed with suggestions so they can just choose whatever they feel most comfortable with at that moment.

Get moving

Find ways to stay active, even if it’s just walking around the house. Learn the things they like doing and spend time on them together. It can be something simple like bird-watching, or taking them out for a quick drive. These can go a long way in helping your loved one feel better.

Try to make them laugh

Laughter is one good way to release tension. Add humor to your conversation with jokes, funny anecdotes, or even through physical humor. It can help lighten up the mood and make the time spent together a highlight of the day for your loved one. 

Mind the feeling, not the fact

People with dementia often have challenges with their memory, and their stories reflect this. If your parent is talking about their own grandparents like it happened just last week, humor them. Go along with their story instead of correcting them, which will only end up causing negative emotions. Instead, be there as they relive a memory and focus on how they’re feeling. This will give you insight on how to approach certain topics in the future.

Caring for a parent with dementia can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Always remember that you’re not alone in this. CircleOf can help take some of the load off your shoulders by helping you manage caregiving tasks with other members of your family. So just take it one day, one conversation at a time.