Baths can be significantly stressful for the elderly and needing help can be embarrassing for them. Many conditions, like dementia and neuropathic pain, make bathing painful and tiring.
So, how often should an elderly person bathe?
Older people should bathe at least once or twice a week. That’s because elderly people are more prone to skin breakdown and other infections. Hygiene is the only way to prevent these issues.
In this article, we’ll tell you about bathing a senior and how to make this experience more comfortable. Let’s dive in!
How Often Should an Elderly Person Bathe?
Seniors should bathe at least once or twice a week. This should be enough to prevent any skin conditions or infections.
That said, body odor might still be a problem. If the old person is bedridden, incontinent of bowel or bladder, or is very active, they might need to include other hygiene practices between bathing or showering.
For this reason, an older adult might need to use a warm washcloth to clean their body daily.
You should also encourage them to use moist wipes in the bathroom to prevent urinary tract infections. You can even invest in a bidet! Bidets are an excellent investment for older adults who may have trouble cleaning themselves due to mobility or stamina challenges.
If the older adult wears incontinence briefs, ensure they don’t sit in them for long. Change the briefs four to six times a day, even if they’re still dry.
Simply put, showering every day, or even multiple times a day, is completely okay. The only problem is that this might be too tiring for seniors and their caregivers.
Why Elderly People Should Bathe Less Frequently
Unless the senior has a condition that calls for frequent showers, elderly individuals should bathe less.
Some older adults have physical and mental challenges that make bath time stressful and painful. If an older person can’t bathe by themselves, it might also be severely embarrassing!
Here are all the different reasons why older people should bathe less:
66% of bathroom injuries occur in the shower or tub. The probability of injury significantly increases with advanced age.
This means showers put elderly individuals at high risk of injury, even with help. Naturally, the risk increases further if they suffer from a mobility issue or any type of cognitive impairment.
Pain and Fatigue
Many older individuals experience joint problems, muscle weakness, and mobility issues. So, bathing can be incredibly painful for them.
Neuropathic pain might also worsen with cold and movement. This will result in fatigue for the rest of the day following a bath or shower.
Bathing can be incredibly stressful for older people, especially those who can’t properly express themselves.
Disoriented people can be anxious when it comes to bathing. That’s because the activity confuses them, they might be afraid of water, and/or don’t want to be cold.
Elderly people might also dislike being undressed by a stranger, and feeling like they’re losing control.
As we age, our skin loses oil and elasticity. Frequent showers or baths can dry out the skin even more.
Dry skin can lead to itching and frequent bleeding, which in turn results in skin infections.
How to Help an Elderly Person Who Refuses to Bathe
Due to all the above reasons, older people may refuse to bathe. They might not like others bossing them around, or they might not see the need for a bath!
Here are all the different ways you can help an older person who refuses to bathe:
Talk to Them
You should always be compassionate when it comes to caring for the elderly. Talk to them about bathing and try to understand the reasoning behind their refusal.
Most often, they might not notice that they require a bath. Gently point out their soiled clothing and ask them what they think should be done.
You can also use positive reinforcements, such as imagining the bath as a relaxing spa. Consider activities that may incentivize an older person. Perhaps they are eager to get clean if there’s a special activity, like visiting a friend or going out.
Compromising can help establish trust between you both and make bath time a lot easier.
For example, if they think baths are too cold, let them adjust the temperature themselves with your watchful oversight.
If they don’t like being touched, you can ask them to clean themselves with you standing nearby to help if needed.
If they still refuse to bathe, you can opt for a more tolerable sponge bath instead.
Routine and structure are helpful for grooming and bathing. Setting a fixed bath time once or twice a week can help them get used to the idea.
This is significantly helpful for people living with dementia. They’ll be more likely to partake, and they might even look forward to their bath.
Use Proper Bathing Equipment
The right equipment and products make a world of difference when it comes to helping older adults bathe and shower. For people with limited mobility or who are shy and modest, there are several essential products to incorporate into your bathing routine:
- Bath or shower bench
- Handheld shower
- Bathing wraps for privacy
- Gentle soaps and shampoos
- Long-handled brush
- Grab bars
- Non-slip mats
How often should an elderly person bathe?
Older people should bathe at least once or twice a week. Between baths or showers, there should also be other hygiene measures. Make sure to wipe under the arms, groin area, and genitals with a damp washcloth, and frequently change clothes if they become soiled.
Be compassionate when bathing older adults, especially people living with memory or cognitive impairment. Baths can be painful and anxiety-inducing. They might be embarrassed and upset due to needing assistance.
Compromise and use positive reinforcements to make the bathing and grooming experience as comfortable as possible.
How Often Should an Elderly Person Bathe Frequently Asked Questions
If older adults don’t shower, they’ll likely develop skin infections. These infections are difficult to treat, especially if they’re bedridden.
Showering every day isn’t essential for everyone, let alone older people. Frequent showers can put seniors at risk of injury, pain, and dry skin.
The proper equipment when bathing will make all the difference. Handheld showers, shower benches, and long handle brushes are essential for bathing success. Using a bathing wrap to allow the older adult to have some privacy will also help them feel more at ease. Sponge baths work well for people with severe mobility issues.
Generally, an older person should bathe twice a week. They’ll have to practice other hygiene measures between baths, such as cleaning themselves with a washcloth to prevent skin breakdown and infections.
Amie Clark, BSW
Aging Advocate and Senior Care Expert
Amie has worked with older adults and their families for the past twenty-plus years of her career. Her senior care knowledge is based on her experience as a social worker, family caregiver, and senior care consultant. Learn more about Amie here.