From the Caregiver: Bathing the Elderly

Generally, when taking on the task of bathing an elderly loved one, you have to carefully plan what you need or intend to do.

Caregiving for the Elderly


From the Caregiver: Bathing the Elderly

Generally, when taking on the task of bathing an elderly loved one, you have to carefully plan what you need or intend to do. How to get from the bed to the bathroom? Would you need a wheelchair? It may just be 10 steps away but there is a huge difference if you have to bear the person’s entire bodyweight. It’s worse if they are uncooperative. It could be dangerous for the both of you. The last thing you need is either one getting injured from a fall.

Bathing the elderly  Next, you’d want to have a bathing stool or seat. Make sure it’s secure and doesn’t easily slip. Remember you’re working with water and soap. Once you’re in the bathroom, you’d want to work quickly but in a safe and efficient manner.

Ensure that everything you need is within reach. You don’t want your loved one to wait too long for a bath or to be wiped dry after bathing. They may catch a cold and end up getting sick. The bath water should be warm. Remember that their skin is thinner compared to younger adults.

It’s always a good idea to have some sort of lightweight cloth covering them while they wait to be bathed. If modesty is an issue, keep that cloth on so that your elderly loved one is not totally exposed. Not everyone is comfortable being stark naked in front of others. This could also be the case if a son is bathing his mother or daughter bathing her father.


If they are too weak to scrub themselves, use bath gloves or a soft washcloth to clean them so that you can minimize skin-to-skin contact. Liquid soaps work best in such instances. Have a system of working on one area or one side at a time.

To clean their face, try not to spray the face with a handheld shower or pour water over it. Your loved one may inhale the water and choke. Gently wash the face with a washcloth, rinse it and repeat.

Finally, you can rinse the body from the neck down before quickly removing the bathing gown or cloth and covering him or her with a towel to dry and keep warm until he or she can be dressed. If a shampoo is needed, work on that separately at the sink. It can be before or after the bath. This need not be done daily unless the hair is soiled or dirty.

Bathing your elderly loved one can be uncomfortable at first, but remember that this person cared for you when you were little. So you can set aside those awkward feelings and show that you really do care. Remember that this can’t be easy for them either, especially when they’ve been the family’s pillar of strength all this while.