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How To Get Your Elderly Parent To Shower

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There are multiple reasons as to why your elderly parent may not be showering on a regular basis but whatever the reason is – in this article we’ll be talking about some tips on how you or other family members can get your parent to shower more frequently.

So, what do you do when your elderly parent won’t shower?

Follow these tips that I outline below to help you work with your senior loved one or other elderly person to encourage them to take a shower or regular baths.

For family caregivers of someone with a cognitive impairment, please know that their mental limitations may be worse some days than others. If a technique works one day but not another, don’t get discouraged.

Above all – always be patient and take a compassionate approach when dealing with a sensitive subject like this.

10 Tips To Encourage An Elderly Parent To Bathe

After years of working with elderly patients as an Occupational Therapist and then caring for my own senior parents, I have learned a few tips on how to deal with seniors who refuse to bathe.

Here are my 10 tips that may help home caregivers encourage an older parent to take a shower or a bath more frequently.

1. Showering / Bathing Every Day Is Not A Necessity

The common myth that many adults follow is that it’s necessary to take a shower or bath on a daily basis. But medically speaking, it’s just a myth.

Older adults may not require a shower every day to maintain the level of cleanliness necessary to protect their skin, ward off infection, and meet general standards of grooming. Taking a shower once or twice a week can often be sufficient to meet these criteria, and people can use warm washcloths in between to stay feeling fresh.

Obviously, every individual will have their own set of specific ideas about personal care so those conditions should be taken into consideration. For example, if someone is at high risk for bed sores – it would then be very important that their skin be kept clean and dry.

Otherwise, generally speaking, for elderly people who are mostly indoors and mostly sedentary, there is no need to take a shower or full baths daily.

Once or twice a week is sufficient.

2. Avoid Arguments and Be Patient

It’s not difficult to become annoyed and lose your patience with somebody when they appear to be nonsensical – which can surely occur in the event that they have dementia or are an Alzheimer’s patient or in the event that they are simply being plain obstinate.

Yet, persistence is significant in light of the fact that you need to try not to heighten emotions which can – without much of a stretch – wreck your general objective. If bath time becomes a fight all of the time, it will turn into a traumatic experience and your parent will be even more reluctant to shower or bathe.

So remember – you want to keep your voice calm and you may have to walk away from the situation more than once.

One thing you can do is to attempt to discuss it – if conceivable. And remember, if your senior loved one is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, then you must keep your sentences short and very much to the point.

In the event that you can comprehend WHY they are declining you might have the option to bargain with them.

For instance, let’s say your senior parent tells you that they don’t like to take a daily shower because it makes them cold. You can then get to work on installing a small heater in the form of an overhead lamp in the shower or over the bathtub.

Another example may be if they insist that they have already showered / bathed. You can begin using a calendar where they mark off that they have taken a shower.

The point to remember is to do all you can to avoid an argument over the topic of showering / bathing. Instead, use language that is positive and maybe even provide rewards.

I know, it sounds like you are bribing your senior parent but depending on their cognitive status – it may be the technique that works.

Something you could say would be “Why don’t you take take a short shower right now and get dressed and we’ll go get some frozen yogurt.” Again, this works best best if your aging parent is has Alzheimer’s disease or is a dementia patient.

3. Discuss The Topic With Your Senior Parents Regularly

In my experience, it’s always a good idea to discuss your concerns and thoughts with your elderly parents. It’s important to have a conversation with them about WHAT the problem(s) might be with washing or showering.

You may discover that the bathroom is excessively cold (particularly during cold weather months), or the water temperature is difficult to adjust. Maybe they are experiencing difficulty using the fixtures or they could be having trouble holding bar soaps or the shampoo bottle, etc.

There are numerous little factors that your parent(s) could be dealing with that are making it difficult for them to wash themselves.

When you recognize what the problem(s) are then you can begin working on making the changes necessary to make the experience of showering / bathing easier and safer for them.

4. The Right Adaptive Equipment Can Make A Big Difference

Today, there are a wide range of gadgets and equipment (for example, walk in tubs and zero threshold showers) that can make showering/bathing safer and easier for older adults.

Here is our list of products that we recommend:

Grab Bars – Grab bars are normally the first home renovating project that seniors and their families complete to make the bathroom safer There are a numerous number of grab bars available nowadays so investigate some that we suggest.

Shower Faucet Levers – For anybody who is suffering with arthritis in their hands, the choice of the right type of faucet lever can really make the difference when showering or bathing. This would be a simple home remodeling project to make in order to give some more autonomy to yourself or a senior loved one.

Adaptable Shower Heads – Flexible shower heads are superb for seniors and especially ones who use a shower seat. These can be mounted close to the shower chair and some also include an on/off switch right on the handle!

Hand-held Shower Head – another great product is a handheld shower head. These devices replace traditional shower heads. They have a holder to hang the shower head in so that it acts like a regular shower. But the senior (or caregiver) can remove the hand-held shower head from the holder and use it to spray themselves without getting their hair wet. This device is particularly handy for someone who needs a little help with showering from an aide or for dementia patients and those who must have a caregiver help them shower.

Shower Chairs and Tub Transfer Benches – For safety’s sake we always recommend the use of transfer benches and shower chairs. These assistive devices are a definite “must” for those with mobility issues. There are many varieties to choose from these days.

Bathtub Lift – If getting in and out of your bath tub is becoming a difficult task for you or a senior loved one and you don’t want to invest in a walk in tub then a bath lift may be the solution for you. This portable product is a very easy home improvement that can make it simpler for you to get into and out of a tub safely.

Dispensers For Soap, Shampoo and Conditioner – An item that I have recently added to my shower stall is a wall dispenser. You can purchase ones that come with either 1, 2, 3 or 4 dispensers and of course – you can fill them with liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, or whatever you use.

Using this can help to prevent dropping the soap or having to handle a bottle of shampoo, etc.

Shower Stall Hooks – I use shower stall hooks to hang my towel and my loofah. It keeps the shower stall neater and less cluttered.

Shower Stall Organizers – The main problem (for seniors) that I see with numerous bottles and items in the shower stall is that it’s just too easy to drop them or handle them which could all cause a fall and also make showering simply frustration. Organizers can help to make showering safer and easier.

Overhead Heat Lamp – An absolute necessity to have for seniors living in chilly climates or for anyone who simply feels cold.

Shower Mats and Stickies – there are a large variety of mats and stickies that can be used in showers and bathtubs to make the floor less slippery and safer.

Shower Doors – in my opinion the modern glass shower doors provide easy access to the shower and are safer than curtains. Read more about it here.

5. Calendars and Reminders May Help

For older parents with memory issues, having an actual calendar to schedule not only events but daily tasks may go a long way in reminding them that today is shower day.

I worked with an older lady who had fairly mild issues with her memory. She was in the early stages of dementia.

She had a wall calendar in her bathroom where her showering schedule and hair washing schedule were posted. She would “X” out the day only AFTER she had completed the scheduled task.

Now, this may not work if your senior loved one is in the later stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

6. Try Soothing Music

Most everybody enjoys listening to music and it truly can soothe the soul – as long as it’s the kind of music that person enjoys. It can be something relaxing or their favorite song.

You can put the same piece of music on repeat so that it will continue playing throughout the showering activity.

Using tools such as music and aromatherapy can help to make the experience more like a “spa day” than just bathing.

7. Aromatherapy

Using different approaches such as music and aromatherapy create a spa-like atmosphere, which can help to make bathing a more positive experience.

The use of an aromatherapy diffuser is not often discussed in context with older adults but I believe it is an underused tool when dealing with someone who is agitated.

Aromatherapy works by stimulating olfactory receptors that in turn stimulate the part of the brain that is linked to the regulation of emotions. It has been widely used to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. Now, many studies show that aromatherapy can benefit patients with dementia…

You may have to experiment to find out which aromatherapy scent works best for your senior loved one but generally speaking, the ones that are most often used to decrease agitation and aggression are lavender, bergamot and lemon balm.

See the products that we recommend for you to get started on using Aromatherapy today.

8. Employ A Professional Caregiver To Help Your Senior Loved One

Most elderly parents find it very difficult to be naked in front of their adult children – it’s very common. So, if that is the case it may be beneficial to hire home care assistance to help them with showering and bathing.

9. Respect Your Elderly Parents’ Privacy

On the off chance that your older parent approves of you helping them during shower time – do all you can to give them as much privacy as you can.

You can do this by making sure there is a towel nearby so it can be used right away or perhaps you can use a large washcloth or small privacy towel that they can cover their privates with during the showering or bathing process..

Allow them to wash themselves as much as they can. I know it may end up taking a prolonged period of time, but it’s important to be very patient and allow them some control over this task.

10. Use Friends and Family In Your Community

A nudge from a close friend or other family member can help.

An example could be that your senior loved one is invited to an event and of course – in order to go they must get ready and showering / bathing will hopefully be part of that process.

For some, being able to get out and to go to an event with friends and/or family may be enough motivation to get them to attend to their own personal hygiene.

Are These Tips On How To Get Your Elderly Parent To Shower Helpful For You?

I do hope that these 10 tips will be useful for you and your senior parent. Of course, if you have found a technique that works for you that is not listed here – please let us know!

We love to learn from our readers!

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