How to Convince a Senior to Bathe

If you have made the decision to provide senior care for an aging loved one, you are truly taking on a tremendous responsibility. Not only are you going to be dedicating your time, energy, and resources to this person, you are also going to be encountering a variety of situations that will try your patience and emotional strength. Some aspects of providing senior care are frustrating and bewildering, which can quickly wear you out and leave you physically and emotionally exhausted.

One of these challenges is making an elderly person take a bath. Many seniors, even those who were immaculate and exceptionally conscientious about their personal hygiene and grooming when they were younger may begin resisting bathing as they grow older. This can result in terrible body odor, sores, rashes, skin irritation, and other serious consequences. If the senior goes an extended amount of time without bathing you could even be charged with neglect.

There are obviously many reasons why convincing your senior to keep up with his personal hygiene is important. Knowing how to convince a senior to bathe can help ease anxiety, stress, and tension for both of you, making the entire experience more pleasant.

Why Does He Need Convincing?

The first step in convincing seniors to bathe is recognizing the reasons why they may be resistant to bathing in the first place. By recognizing these issues you may be able to develop an approach that addresses them thoughtfully, compassionately, and effectively so bath time doesn’t have to be the most dreaded event of the week. Some of the reasons an elderly person may need convincing when it comes time to take a bath include:

  • Memory Issues: many seniors cope with varying degrees of memory challenges. Though mild cases may only result in a senior not bathing for a few days, more severe cases could lead to your senior not bathing for weeks because he thinks that he already has, or just doesn’t remember that he needs to.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease: Alzheimer’s disease can make it difficult for the elderly to keep up with many activities of daily living. One of these is bathing. Sometimes seniors coping with symptoms of dementia develop a fear of water. They may also feel confused as to why they need to bathe, or what is going on during a bath.
  • Modesty: if you need to help your senior take a bath or shower, he may resist due to feelings of modesty. Even if you are not bothered by seeing your loved one undressed, it is important to remember that he comes from a different time. These generations tend to have a much greater sense of privacy and modesty than younger generations, which can make it embarrassing and difficult for seniors to cope with being seen undressed, and being touched.
  • Mobility Issues: old people who cope with mobility issues are often nervous about bath time because they fear they will fall or otherwise hurt themselves during the bath or shower.

How to Convince a Senior to Bathe

Convincing your aging loved one to bathe, it is important that you use tactics that will address the specific reasons your loved one is resistant to the bath. Bathing an elderly person is safest and least difficult when the senior is comfortable, relaxed, and feels secure. Some of the ways you can make it easier to convince your aging loved one to keep up with his bathing include:

  • Schedule Bath Time: seniors often respond to ritual and expectation. By actually putting the day and time of a bath on his calendar or schedule, you are making it an expected part of his life. This is a great tactic for seniors who were accustomed to scheduling when they were younger, such as military veterans.
  • Use Notes: if it is memory issues that are causing your aging loved one to miss baths and showers, gentle reminders can be extremely helpful. Consider buying a pad of sticky notes in your senior’s favorite color and using them to leave notes for him. Something as simple as, “Don’t forget—bath time at 3!” or “Enjoy your shower today!” can help your loved one remember to bathe.
  • Body Wiping: elderly people who are not very active do not necessarily need a bath or shower every day. In fact, many of them come from a culture that was accustomed to bathing once a week. Body wiping can help you to control body odor and keep your senior’s skin healthy and comfortable in between full baths. Use a thick, sensitive skin baby wipe or a travel washcloth embedded with sensitive skin soap to wipe your senior’s body, then sprinkle with pure cornstarch powder.
  • Use the Right Tools: feeling secure and comfortable goes a far way in helping your aging loved one feel better about bathing. A shower bench will prevent your senior from having to sit on the bottom of the tub, or stand for the entire time of the shower. Using a handheld shower head will allow your senior to stay in one place while you move the water around him, rather than expecting him to move around to get into the water.
  • Play Music: music has amazing powers. It can be soothing and relaxing, or invigorating and exciting. Playing music during a bath can distract a senior from his anxiety and encourage him to enjoy the event more.
  • Wait for a Good Time: most people go through a range of emotions throughout the day. It can be helpful to wait until your senior is in a good, cooperative mood to suggest a bath or shower. People are much more likely to do something they are nervous about when they are in a good mood, than when they are feeling tired, anxious, frustrated, or difficult.

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