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Caregiving 101

How to Help Senior Hygiene and Shower Issues

Written by CircleOf Staff
October 26, 2021
How to Help Senior Hygiene and Shower Issues

Caregivers notice changes. We are over stimulated from paying attention to the details, tracking changes and nurturing. When we notice that our elderly loved one is not changing clothes or is showering or bathing infrequently, it sends a distinct alarm sound in our heads.

Understanding Elderly Hygiene Changes

Seniors may have declining hygiene issues for a variety of reasons.

While seniors do not need to shower or bathe every day since they’re not as active as they’re used to be, it’s a good rule of thumb to shower at least once or twice a week.

Below are some possible reasons why seniors may be avoiding showers and basic hygiene.

Declining strength or balance:

Some struggle to get in or out of the shower or realize that they need some assistance. They are embarrassed to ask for help to bathe or install bathroom safety equipment.

Sense of smell decreases:

As we age our sense of smell changes, so seniors may not notice.

Skin changes, reactions and soap products

Elderly skin is prone to injuries and heals more slowly. Aging adults get a range of skin problems from itching, scaling and mild dryness, up to skin cancer.

Water temperatures should be mild or medium to avoid drying, thinner skin. These changes may make them want to take fewer baths or showers and use milder soap. Despite them knowing the importance of showering when it comes to healthy hygiene, you might actually have a hard time convincing your elderly parents to take one.

In cases of Azheimer’s or Dementia this is behavior is some-what typical and anticipated. That’s a few reasons why it’s important for family caregivers to learn how to give an elderly person a shower.

How To Convince Someone to Shower

To help you keep everyone clean and healthy here are a few recommendations 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 friend / relative / clinician, let them be the one to help them shower.

Call it something else.

Perhaps ‘bathing’ or ‘showering’ has a negative connotation for them. Instead, call it ‘cleaning up’ or ‘washy - washy’, then create a positive association with the phrase.

Upgrade their shower.

Alleviate their fears and anxiety by installing safety equipment, handlebars or adding a shower 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 it 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 set up, 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, 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 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. Learning how to give an elderly person a shower is just one of the long list of things a caregiver does.


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