Bathing the elderly can be a difficult task. For caregivers, bath time is a struggle and can be a traumatic experience for their seniors. As people age, naturally, they start to dislike showers or baths.


The issue with stopping all hygiene is the person can develop infections and skin conditions. Skin conditions can be challenging to treat. It is essential to bathe your seniors regularly and make it easier for them.


Before we get into a few tips on bathing the elderly let’s look at some of the issues seniors face when bathing.


Issues that Elderly People Face When Bathing


There are various reasons why seniors avoid showering. Any elderly individuals who have Alzheimer’s and dementia may have issues with bathing and refuse altogether. They could be scared of the sounds of the running water. They could fear the water on their skin.


Seniors could have hallucinations of drowning or being sucked into the shower drain. This can turn them off from showering or bathing altogether. A lot of seniors experience pain when bending or standing, which could also turn them off from cleaning themselves. Showering becomes tedious, exhausting, and challenging.


Seniors also find warm or cold water uncomfortable; others fear accidents in the bathroom, like slipping or falling. Some elderly individuals are just stubborn and refuse to bathe. You may experience a lot of seniors stating that their hygiene is within their control and will decide when and whether to cleanse. Be sure to find another way to advise them to shower without having them feel they have lost their authority.


When seniors have memory loss ailments, bathing is even more difficult. This is a leading issue with seniors refusing to bathe. Seniors will forget entirely, or they can’t remember the last time they cleaned.


So how do you convince a senior to bathe? Read on for some awesome tips.


Tips on How to Convince the Elderly to Take a Bath


There are a few ways to make this easy for you, the aid, and, of course, the senior. Here are some tips on how to convince the elderly to take a bath.




Talk to them. This helps you, as the aid, get a better understanding of why the person refuses to bathe. The importance of understanding their feelings will help you convince them to take a bath. When you reassure them in a gentle, positive way, they are more willing to shower.


You want to avoid a nagging voice; you want to be polite. Also, talk to them about the importance of taking a shower and what could happen if they don’t. Be sure to paint a picture of them of two scenarios, and this will help them fully understand the need to bathe.


Talk to a Doctor


With the help of your seniors’ doctor, they can support you when convincing the senior to shower. The doctor has an idea of the senior’s personality and health background to help with persuading them to bathe. Your senior will more likely take the doctor’s advice rather than your own.


Using the Correct Shower Equipment and Products


You want to make bathing as comfortable as possible for your senior. Be sure to invest in the right equipment—for example, a bath lift chair, handheld showerheads, and shower chairs. Seniors find bathing exhausting, especially if they have bad back or knee issues. Even bending can be an issue.


These types of equipment will make the seniors feel safer, comfortable, and will result in them being more willing to bathe. Also, try to buy products they love. They may have a favorite scent or brand of soap; this will help make bathing more accessible as well.


Bringing in Family and Friends


When you invite family and close friends over, they could help encourage your senior to bathe. Seniors are usually excited when they know that they are going to be seeing family or friends, which may get them to bath all on their own without you having to convince them.


Patience and Respecting the Senior’s Privacy


As an elderly caregiver, you need to be patient. Seniors like doing things at their own pace and on their own time. You have to respect that as much as possible. When convincing the senior to shower, you must allow them to do it at their own time. You have to avoid rushing them; you want to offer them options rather than giving them instructions.


For example, asking if the senior wants to shower before or after lunch or before or after dinner. Be sure to respect your senior’s privacy; you want them to feel comfortable. If they’re going to shower clothed, then let them, this will help build trust and respect for each other.


Have a Routine


You want to create a routine with the senior in your care. Something that you both can stick to. This should end the fight of bathing. Ask your senior when they prefer bathing; would they want to shower in the morning or the evening? This will help them prepare themselves mentally and physically for the upcoming shower. For seniors, a routine is essential, especially if the elder has dementia.


Warm up the Bathroom for Comfort


If your senior hates to bathe because they don’t want to feel cold, then communicate with them that you will warm the bathroom up before they shower. You want to turn on the heater for 10 minutes before the senior enters the bathroom. Also, cover your patient with a heavy towel or maybe two, the minute they are out.


Make Sure You Have Everything Ready Before the Bath


Be sure to have everything ready and at arm’s reach. Once the senior is in the bath, you cannot leave their side because you forgot something. You want to have shampoo, sponges, and washcloths available to you. When the senior sees you preparing a bath, they will also prepare themselves mentally and physically. When you have everything ready, this will result in a smoother and faster bath.


How Often Should the Elderly Bathe?


You want to be sure to bathe your senior twice a week. This will help prevent their skin from breaking down and have a lower risk of skin infections. Since seniors are usually less active than younger adults, they don’t need to bathe as often. However, you don’t want your senior to develop body odor.


Is not Showering a Sign of Depression for Seniors?


Depression doesn’t discriminate age; it is tough physically and mentally for anyone. Elderly depression usually goes unnoticed. Many of the signs or symptoms, which include irritability, fatigue, and the lack of interest in activities, are typically assumed to be familiar aspects of aging. Elders experience multiple losses, such as spouses and friends, due to their declining health. This extensive loss can cause depression.


Seniors may not show the traditional symptoms of depression but will show some; these include social withdrawal, trouble concentrating, and changes in appetite. There are unusual symptoms of senior depression, which include memory issues, vague complaints of pain. They could also have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. They could also experience hallucinations.


With personal hygiene, you will see a decline. If your senior once fixed themselves up, showered, put little makeup on, etc., and now you are seeing them in a different light, this might be senior depression.


Check for Rashes Before Bathing


The skin, as you age, becomes fragile. When we are young, it is a protective guard against the environment. But as we age, the wrinkles form, and the skin becomes thinner. This can increase skin infections, rashes, and sores on older adults.


Should You Bathe an Elder When They have a Rash?


When an elderly person has a rash or a sore, you want to make sure that you bathe them less frequently. Cleaning your senior every other day will be gentler on their skin compared to every day. You want to avoid using very hot water when showering or bathing a senior. Especially if it is their face; this can dry out their skin.

old lady

How to Give a Bed Bath


Since bathing your elder is so essential to prevent skin infections and rashes, there are easier ways to do so, especially if your elder is afraid of the bathroom. Depending on how poorly your elder moves, they may need a bed bath.


Yes, a bed bath. Sometimes no matter how much you reassure them, they may still be afraid of the shower or bath. So, why not try a bed bath.  This is also known as a sponge bath. Lots of hospitals and assisting living homes to resort to this type of cleaning. A lot of older adults may be used to


For elders, you can give bed baths 2 to 3 times a week. But you want to let the elder clean themselves as much as they can. This will prevent them from feeling as if they have lost all control in that aspect of their lives. They could become uncooperative and unwilling to allow you to bath them at all.


To Give a Bed Bath, You Will Need:


Before starting, make sure you gather your supplies. Make sure you have everything you need at arm’s length.


·       Four or more washcloths or sponges.

·       Three or more towels.

·       Two washbasins (one filled with soapy water, the other for rinsing.)

·       Soap; make sure you have a bar of soap, liquid soap, or wipes.

·       No tears shampoo, or no-rinse shampoo.

·       Body lotions.

·       A waterproof cloth to keep the bed dry.

·       A table or a stand to hold all the supplies.


How to Get Ready for a Bed Bath


·       Be sure to ask the person if the room temperature is okay and change the temperature if need be.

·       Make sure the bed is high enough so that you, s the aide, don’t hurt your back. If it is too low, you could always put one knee on the bed and reach over the person to bathe them.

·       You want to place a waterproof mat or sheet under the person to keep the bed dry.

·       Make sure the elder has privacy; this can be done by making sure the door is shut, the blinds are down, and the curtains are closed.


Step by Step: How to Give a Bed Bath


·       Fill two basins with water; make sure it is warm. One is for soap up a washcloth, and the other is to hold warm water for rinsing.

·       Make sure you wash and dry your hands before washing your elder.

·       By using the back of your hand, check the temperature of the water.

·       You could wear gloves, but they are not required. Put if the person is becoming sick or has bad diarrhea, you may want to.

·       Let the person undress and wash as much as they are able. When they finish undressing, take the clothing away from the area, so it doesn’t become wet.

·       Wash their body with gentle wipes. Be sure to use soap and get every nook and cranny that you can.

·       Wash face, neck, ears, chest, belly, legs, feet, etc.

·       Help the person roll or move to get their backside.

·       Be sure to check the water. It will become cold fast. You will want to dump the water out and refill it with clean, warm water.

·       Also, be sure to change the washcloth when washing the genital area.

·       After washing and drying the elder, be sure to apply lotion to their body, so their skin doesn’t become dry and cracked.

·       Help the person redress.

·       Wash and put away supplies and be sure to wash your hands.




Bathing the elderly can be difficult. Depending on their mental state, their cooperativeness, and if they have any rashes or sores, it becomes tedious. You want to be sure to make your patient feel comfortable and respected. Imagine if it was your loved one or yourself in that situation. How would you want them to be treated?


This is a very personal, sensitive, and intimate activity, and the elder may be embarrassed about bathing. Be sure to use a calming, optimistic voice. You want to be reassuring the elder through the whole process and encouraging them to bathe.


If you are having issues with getting their willingness to bathe, bring in some reinforcement. This can be their family member, friend, or doctor. Usually, seniors are more prone to listen to someone they know and trust. As a nursing assistant, they may not trust you right off the bat; you will build that over time.