The loss of independence is one of the hardest things aging people have to deal with as their bodies change. As caregivers, we see the slow decline and the need for assistance, but often we neglect what it must feel like to require help with so many simple tasks. The need for bathing support, a private and intimate act, is difficult to accept for many aging people.
As someone who cares for an aging person facing challenges with bathing, it may be your responsibility to navigate the best way to move ahead now that your senior has shown they need assistance. If your loved one has difficulty accepting help, you will need to communicate the importance of bathing and the consequences of not bathing.
Because proper hygiene and self-care are essential to seniors’ overall health, it is crucial to maintain a bathing routine that addresses the fear and anxiety preventing your loved one from properly caring for themselves. Insufficient bathing can lead to health problems like UTIs, rashes, and skin infections. Bathing just a few times a week will reduce the risk of health problems. However, your loved ones will need your ongoing support to figure out how to best tend to their needs.
Challenges Of Bathing For Aging People
We take for granted the ease and comfort of bathing before the challenges of aging set in. For most people, a warm shower or bath is a time to reset and relax. For aging people, bathing comes with a new set of obstacles. Getting in and out of the shower or tub is difficult for an older body. A lack of flexibility also makes it difficult to clean themselves properly. It is simply a challenge to remember to bathe at all for some. Common challenges to consider are:
- Impaired mobility increases the risk of falling. Considering 80% of falls for people aged 65 and older occur in the bathroom, there is no wonder seniors face anxiety around bathing. Using chairs, handrails, and non-slip surfaces make bathing more safely accessible for these individuals.
- Memory loss in seniors can be one of the most significant challenges for a caregiver. Showering and self-care are often the first facilities to deteriorate with dementia. Your loved one either forgets when they have bathed or insists they already have. A routine and gentle persuasion are beneficial for those with memory loss.
- Depression leaves people feeling like there is little to no point in bathing. Sometimes just getting out of bed can be a struggle for those suffering from depression. So it can be even more difficult mustering up the energy to take care of their body.
Helping Seniors Bathe With Support and Respect
If you are caring for an aging person grappling with a fear of bathing, it is your responsibility to listen and respond to their needs. They may not want to admit to needing help doing something they used to be able to do on their own. Find a way to meet them where they can accept that you are coming from a place of love and care.
Remember, as frustrating as it is trying to get another person to do something for their own good, it is equally frustrating to be on the receiving end, handing over yet another element of independence as aging progresses. Don’t hesitate to ask for a doctor’s help if your loved one needs a little extra persuasion.
Bathing Care Recommendations:
- Make sure they are warm and comfortable. You can also try putting on some music and giving a soothing leg and arm massage in the process to make the experience feel like they are getting truly pampered.
- Gather all your supplies so there is no need to leave your loved one alone at any time. This routine is also a good signal for older people who need more time to prepare mentally.
- Outfit the shower or bath with practical safety measures like grab bars, a shower chair, and non-slip mats. Having a shower caddy or mounted soap and shampoo dispensers eliminates the need for bending over or dropping slippery bottles when showering.
- Allowing the older person to do as much of the bathing themselves will help increase independence and personal control.
- Compliment generously! It may seem simple, but receiving attention will make your loved one feel special. Focusing your attention on the positive outcome will make them feel good about themselves and hopefully less resistant towards your help.
Stay on a Schedule
- Bathing should occur at least twice a week unless there are health concerns like incontinence that require more frequent attention to eliminate the risk of infection and rashes. Some older people, especially those with dementia, find it easier to make bathing a part of their daily routine.
- Work with your loved one to find out when they prefer to bathe. Making them feel like they are a part of the process will help them feel less powerless.
- Plan bathing days to coordinate with outings or social visits. Wanting to look their best may be just the motivation to follow through with a bath or shower. Some may find the simple reward of a treat or a favorite meal to do the trick as well.
Enlist a Professional’s Help
- Some older people may feel more comfortable with a professional helping them bathe. Others may prefer the intimacy of a family member. If possible, create space for an honest dialogue with your loved one about what is the best fit for them.
Perhaps the most significant challenge seniors face is asking for help from a caregiver. This may come easier to some than to others, but asking for help is a challenge regardless of age. Older people admit to feeling a loss of independence once they require bathing assistance. As someone who cares, you have the heavy responsibility of trying to give your loved one as much independence as safely possible. By outfitting the bathroom with safety measures and consistently showing up with respect, you can help your loved one with the rewarding but often challenging task of bathing.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and more independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.