An elderly person needs to bathe. It is imperative to his/her overall health and personal self-esteem to remain clean. However, if you regularly help an elderly person as either a primary caregiver or as an adult child trying to support an elderly parent, you know that this task is never easy.
The Challenges Preventing an Elderly Person From Bathing/Showering
First and foremost, an elderly person is unable to move as easily because his/her joints either don’t allow him/her to lift their legs and feet over the tub or he/she has really painful arthritis. He/she may avoid bathing because he/she simply can’t get into the tub as easily as he/she used to.
Secondly, cognitive decline involving memory, dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease causes an elderly person to not remember the last time he/she bathed or develop a fear of water. Where memory is the problem, he/she may become argumentative or combative, but keeping a good record of bathing routines helps. Where dementia or Alzheimer’s is concerned, finding the right time of day where the person is more willing to bathe helps.
Third, elderly people are frail and fragile. Osteoporosis is common in the elderly, creating fragile bones that can break. A slip and fall incident is the biggest concern for most elderly people because they are worried that getting in or out of the tub/shower will result in falling and breaking a hip.
Fourth and finally, time is required to bathe. Elderly people move slower and need more time to wash up in the shower or tub. They don’t always perceive that they have the time to bathe, so they don’t.
Addressing These Challenges Safely
Trying to help an elderly person bathe means that you have to provide him/her with all possible safety measures to make him/her feel very safe and comfortable. One of those measures includes shower seats and bath benches. These bath accessories allow an elderly person to sit down on a bench or seat and slide over into the shower without having to risk falling. Stepping over the edge of the tub is easier because the elderly person is already sitting and is supported while lifting legs and feet into the tub.
Another safety measure is the installation of grab bars. Place grab bars vertically and horizontally on the tub and shower walls. These provide a measure of safety to the person getting in and out of the tub/shower. If the person begins to slip, he/she can grab a bar to steady him/herself.
Choosing a time of day to bathe helps. A lot of nursing homes and elderly care homes schedule showers early in the morning or evening to avoid some of the issues that come with cognitive problems related to aging. You can do the same for someone you provide care for.
Choose a time of day where your elderly person seems most willing to bathe and has the easiest time of doing it with your help. Give him/her as much privacy as possible and keep the water warm and comfortable to encourage regular bathing. Keep the same schedule of bathing to avoid any additional confusion your client would experience bathing on an unscheduled day or time.