We get it—it’s awkward for everyone.
Whether you’re the caretaker of an elderly parent, an ill loved one, or an individual with dementia, bath time is likely one of the most challenging rituals of your care. But it doesn’t have to be. The following are a few tips to help make bathing less of an uphill battle and maybe even a treat.
Tip 1. Check in with yourself before getting started.
Even if the individual you’re helping bathe is visually-impaired or has advanced dementia, they will still be receptive to your attitude or demeanor going into any caretaking experience. If your facial expression, tone of voice, or body language is expressing uncertainty, squeamishness, nervousness, or annoyance, they will very likely mirror these feelings.
Approach bath time with optimism, confidence, and a calming influence. You may be quite surprised how receptive the individual becomes to what was ordinarily a time fraught with tension and discomfort.
Tip 2. Prep the bathing space before getting started.
Why would anyone want to take a shower or bath in a cold, wet, echo-filled place with potentially weird smells—also just to have you leaving to get more supplies periodically?
- Older and disabled individuals with circulation problems are more sensitive to the cold, so you will want to warm up the bathroom before bathtime.
- Consider lighting pleasantly scented candles or using nice-smelling soaps to make the space more inviting.
- Have all of your supplies within reach before starting bathtime. Having to leave the bathroom to fetch anything will make the person feel alone and may cause them to attempt to leave the bathroom—which is not only a mess waiting to happen but is also potentially dangerous.
Tip 3. Strive to make the process less awkward and more private.
Put yourself in their bath chair—having to be assisted with bathing is awkward. But you can make it seem less weird.
Instead of just taking over the entire process and treating them like another chore, give them both privacy as well as a role.
You can give them privacy by covering sensitive areas with washcloths. You can also give them washcloths to use to clean themselves while you’re cleaning other hard-to-reach areas. If they’re more responsible and less likely to make a mess, you could even give them the handheld showerhead to rinse themselves.
Even if you have to go back over certain areas they didn’t quite clean, not only will this role make them feel more independent, but it will distract them from any perceived awkwardness related to being bathed.
Tip 4. Luxuriate the experience.
“C’mon—it’s bath time,” isn’t the most appealing sentence you could say to someone in need of a good washing.
When a loved one is in need of a bath, make the experience seem more luxurious for them. Don’t call it “bath time” or highlight the utility of the experience (“you stink and you need a bath”—possibly the worst thing you can say), instead call it “spa day” or offer them a nice “soak” or a “sauna experience.”
Tip 5. Simplify the experience with the right tools.
Without the right tools, any job can become unpleasurable and stressful. Bathing is no exception. Even if you’re capable of hoisting this person into position and manually reaching all of the hard-to-reach areas, doing it the “hard way” can make the experience more intense and less enjoyable for them.
Invest in a handful of items that will make the washing experience not only easier for you but also more enjoyable for them.
- A handheld showerhead is a must for washing a sitting individual—as well as letting them help out in the process.
- A shower chair and a larger shower opening can remove the challenge of getting in and out of a tub.
- A transfer bench can help less-capable individuals enter the bathing space.
- A variety of handles can help the person achieve stability in the bathroom—not only functionally useful but also helpful in increasing confidence.
Tip 6. End the experience with something they’ll look forward to.
Even when bath time is over, many of those people cared for may still not have a positive association with the experience. And you may think you’ve done all you can. There are still ways to make their perception of bath time a more favorable one.
At the end of every bath-time experience, provide the individual with a positive association—a treat or an expression of personal dignity. Perhaps a woman may enjoy an application of a favorite perfume. Maybe a fella appreciates a little aftershave or cologne. There may even be a favorite treat—such as tea, cocoa, or ice cream—that they enjoy and can begin to associate with the bath-time experience.
Hospice & Palliative Care Services in Tulsa, Oklahoma
If you or a loved one is looking for professional and compassionate hospice and palliative care in the Greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area, look no further than your friends at Cura HPC Hospice & Palliative Care.