Helpful tips for providing a bath or shower for your loved one when their ability to independently manage their personal hygiene declines.
A sponge bath—where a person is not immersed in the water of a bath tub or shower, but cleaned with washcloths and towels while sitting or lying down—can be a good substitute for a full bath or shower. Then the loved one can have one or two full baths or showers per week.
- For a sponge bath, keep some of the following in mind for a better experience:
- Make sure the bathroom is warm, as your loved one will be removing his or her clothing for the bath. If the room is hot for you, it is likely warm enough for him or her.
- Start the sponge bath from his or her shoulders. For the upper body, cover the lower body with a towel. Work your way down, always talking as you go, explaining your next steps. If the loved one can participate in any part of the process, allow them to do so. Complete the upper half of the body, washing with soap and a washcloth, rinsing off the soap with a warm, clean, non-soapy washcloth, and then dry with the towel.
- At this point, cover his or her upper body, with an undergarment and shirt, or a large dry towel over the shoulders. The important thing to remember is to accommodate their need for modesty, and to keep them warm throughout the process.
- Repeat the above steps on the lower body.
- For a shower or bath in the tub, the steps are the same as for the sponge bath, with some additional reminders:
- Use a shower seat when there is difficulty sitting down in the tub.
- Keep the water level in the bathtub low.
- With the hand shower, have your loved one use it for rinsing suds off, etc. Start at the top of the body, washing the hair first, letting them rinse if they are inclined, and then dry. While bathing the top part of the body, lay a towel over the bottom part. Do the same when you are washing the bottom half of the body by draping a towel around the shoulders. You want to be sure they are warm throughout the bath.
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