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.