Elderly Care: Showering and Bathing Your Parent

There may come a day when your parent can no longer bathe themselves easily. Unless a professional caregiver is available to bathe your mom or dad, you may have to do the bathing yourself.

This, of course, can be an extremely touchy subject to bring up. After all, your parent bathed you once, not the other way around. Also, you were a baby then. Both of you are adults now. Can we say, Awkward!!!

To keep dignity and boundaries between both of you, here are some tips.

First of all, you may have to see about reconfiguring the bathroom to an elderly-friendly bathing site. You may have to convert a tub or shower stall into one that’s easily accessible for your parent. You also may want to have hand rails installed, as well as a shower seat so that your parent may sit down while you wash.

The “indignity” of being bathed by his or her children may be at the forefront of your parent’s mind. But it’s pretty easy to bathe your parent while your mother or father is wrapped and covered in a towel. Wrap your parent in a towel and then use water and soap directly on the inside of the towel and massage it in. Or, lift the towel only as needed to reach the skin underneath. (If your parent is still able, you can ask him or her to take a soapy washcloth to his or her privates. Then rinse the cloth and ask him or her to rinse the private spots, as well.) Be sure to replace the wet towels with dry ones as soon as possible, of course.

Aim to use the products your parent already uses. Use her favorite shampoo or his preferred brand of body wash.

If possible, make sure the bathroom itself is warm. You’ll also want to be sure the water is at a comfortable temperature (running) before your parent steps into the shower or bath.

Talk and talk some more! Gossip about family matters, tell tales about your children, ask for advice about something. Chatting while bathing your parent can take both of your minds away from the potential awkwardness of the situation.

Finally, don’t force your parent to take a bath. Try to get him or her as clean as possible (warm soapy washcloths on face, legs and arms, perhaps) but don’t make it into a power struggle. You can remind your mom or dad how wonderful it is to feel clean, but don’t nag. If the problem persists, you can speak with your parent’s physician for help in coming up with a solution.

About the Author
The writer has personal experience with elderly ailing parents: her father has Alzheimer’s and her mother has “age related” dementia.

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