How to Give an Elderly Person a Shower

Written by Vivienne Piong

| 4 minutes
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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. 


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