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How to Give An Elderly Person a Shower: Your Quick Step-By-Step Guide

By Maurice

How to Give An Elderly Person a Shower

Caring for elderly loved ones is not an easy task. With age, they might not be as strong as they used to be and might need help to accomplish even the simplest of tasks, including taking a shower.

Moreover, old age could come with health complications such as arthritis that weakens their arms and legs. This way, they might find it hard to get into the bathroom, let alone taking a shower. Others may experience body aches, resulting in unbearable pain whenever you touch them. As such, you might even have to learn the appropriate bathing techniques to avoid hurting them.

This article will offer critical step-by-step guidelines on how to give an elderly person a shower. It will also point you to the best shower safety equipment and provide answers to some of the frequently asked questions on this topic.

How to Give a Senior a Shower: Step-By-Step

Before you begin the showering process, have the following tips in mind:

  • Relax as much as you can while helping your loved one undress and take a bath. It might be an embarrassing moment for first-time caregivers, especially if dealing with a person of the opposite sex. Hence, a calm and relaxed appearance will go a long way in eliminating the tension, and the person you're caring for will feel more comfortable.
  • Privacy is crucial during the bathing process. Sometimes, the care receiver may feel confident in cleaning themselves or some parts of their bodies. In such a case, give them as much privacy as they need. However, stay close enough in case they ask for assistance.
  • There's a chance you may be caring for people with dementia. If that's the case, they may not recall how to bathe or shower. Instead of undressing them in another room, let them go into the shower while fully clothed. This might serve as a reminder of how to take a shower thereafter.

The Bathing Process

Begin by gathering all the necessary materials you'll need. These include:

  1. 1
    Towels
  2. 2
    Shampoo
  3. 3
    Soap
  4. 4
    Body lotion
  5. 5
    Showerhead, preferably with a long hose
  6. 6
    Bath cloths
  7. 7
    Anti-scald valve

You may also need a heat lamp and a shower water filter.

Preparation for the Shower 

  1. 1
    Prepare the shower chair.
  2. 2
    Have the senior change into a robe or shower attire, different from their regular clothes. A robe is a great choice as it can keep them dry after the shower.
  3. 3
    Bring the elderly into the shower area and help them sit on the shower chair or stool.
  4. 4
    Check water temperature using the afore-mentioned anti-scald valve to ensure the water doesn't get too hot.  

Assisting with the Shower 

  1. 1
    Ask the senior to remove the robe or offer assistance if necessary.
  2. 2
    Apply soap or shampoo on the bathing cloth and let them clean themselves if possible. However, offer assistance, especially when cleaning the back.
  3. 3
    If you are not washing them, ensure they begin with the cleaner areas, like the face, and end with the less clean ones, such as the legs.
  4. 4
    During the bathing process, keep an eye on their skin condition. Check if there are any rashes or sores, especially beneath areas with creases and folds. You should also observe the bony regions. If sores are present, contact a healthcare provider immediately.
  5. 5
    Your senior may have trouble raising the arms to reach the head to clean the hair, especially if they have conditions like arthritis. In such a case, you may have to do hair shampooing and conditioning for them. Opt for no-tears shampoo to avoid irritating the eyes or no-rinse shampoo to save time.
  6. 6
    Ensure the shampoo and conditioner are within reach if the senior is strong enough to clean the hair individually. You can also opt to pass these items so that they don't overstretch.

Rinsing off and Exiting the Shower 

  • Use the showerhead for rinsing off. However, this may be unnecessary if you used non-rinse shampoo.
  • Hand them a soft towel to dry themselves off and offer assistance where necessary. Then, help them put the robe back on, and the bathing process is now complete.

Best Shower Safety Equipment for Seniors

Safety is among the primary considerations you should consider when showering your elderly loved one. There are several items that you should have in your bathroom to prevent slips and falls, which could cause serious injuries. Such items could feature the following:

Grab Bars

Grab bars are a necessity in any shower. Traditionally, people would use towel bars to hold themselves as they accessed the bathrooms. However, these bars are not strong enough to hold a person's weight, exposing the users to the risk of falls.


The positioning and installation of the grab bars is crucial since faulty installation might render the bars shaky and hence unsafe. Observe your loved ones as they access the bathroom and install the bars on the exact points on the wall where they put their hands for support.

Non-Slip Mats

High-friction non-slip mats are ideal for preventing slips and falls on a damp floor. Some of these mats stick to the tub or shower floor using sucker or other tacky 'feet,' providing a solid grip.


Ensure the elderly step on these mats as they exit the shower room after a bath. That way, they can walk comfortably while supporting themselves on the grab bars, reducing the chances of slipping and falling.

Shower Chairs/Seats

A shower chair is a sitting option for the elderly and those with disabilities, as most of them cannot stand when bathing or showering. These chairs may also help reduce the likelihood of slips and falls. The material used to make them is plastic on the sitting area, with non-rusting aluminum legs.

Transfer Benches

Shower chairs and transfer benches look similar, although the latter has two legs within and two outside the tub. This makes it convenient to provide support when entering and exiting a bathtub.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

How Often Should the Elderly Shower?

The elderly do not need to shower as often as other people since they are less active. They can also develop skin irritation and urinary tract infections from regular baths. As a result, they should shower once or twice a week, depending on how comfortable they are.

Why DO Seniors Avoid Taking a Shower?

Seniors avoid showering for many reasons, including:

  • They could have rashes or sores on their skin that irritates them whenever it comes into contact with water.
  • Seniors with dementia avoid showering, especially in bathtubs, since they think they'll drown. They are more likely to adapt to sink baths.
  • Arthritis conditions prevent seniors from showering independently, and they get too embarrassed to ask for help.
  • Unfavorable shower water conditions also play a significant role in whether seniors will shower or not. The reaction will be the same if the bathrooms lack the necessary safety equipment.

How to Get the Elderly to Shower?

Tell the Elderly about the Fun Activities You'll Do after Showering 

It's good to brainstorm about the pleasant things you'll engage with your loved one after showering/bathing. Doing so provides them with something to look forward to, and they'll gladly take a bath in readiness.

Talk to a Doctor 

Your senior's doctor knows and understands their health history and personality. As such, the health provider will easily persuade the senior to take a shower while assuring them that everything will be alright. The elderly are also more likely to listen to the doctor than the caregiver.

Install Proper Equipment 

Try to figure out what your elderly loved one's primary bathing burdens are, and then answer them to the best of your ability. There is a variety of bathing assistance for the elderly, including grab bars and shower chairs.

Show Compassion and Care 

Punishment can never work on the elderly. Yelling about their hygiene issues will only make them repulsive, and they're likely to avoid seeking your assistance. Instead, if you see the elderly take a modest step toward having a shower, try making a compliment, which will motivate them.

Conclusion

Giving the elderly a shower can indeed be a challenge. However, it doesn't always have to be very complicated. There are some things you can do to make the process easier. For instance, you can make the bathroom as appealing and safe as possible by installing the necessary safety equipment.

In addition, you can create a loving bond with your elderly loved one and an approachable character such that they'll not shy away from asking for hygiene assistance.


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