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Managing a Senior Loved One's Bathing and Hygiene Needs

Managing a Senior Loved One's Bathing and Hygiene Needs

Being a caregiver for a senior loved one can be as challenging as it is rewarding. One of the common difficulties that family members face is providing assistance with bathing, grooming, and dressing. This type of personal care can be physically exhausting as well as embarrassing for both family members.

The physical requirements of delivering care can be demanding. Caregivers often need to lift and transfer their family member during the process of bathing and toileting. It can put the family caregiver at risk for back and neck injuries.

All the while, both family members are trying to cope with the delicate nature of these tasks. Aging parents are often distressed that an adult child has to give them a bath and dress them. Adult children, in turn, are heartbroken at having to do so.

If you are a family caregiver trying to find ways to make personal care easier, these tips may be useful.

Protecting Dignity During Personal-Care Time

  • Reasonable care expectations: Many of us grew accustomed to taking a shower before heading to work every day. When you live an active life, that may be necessary. For an older adult with a sedentary lifestyle, however, it may be too much. It can even contribute to dry skin, which is already common among seniors. Setting reasonable expectations for bathing can help make personal-care time more manageable. Consider a quick sponge bath every morning and limiting a shower to two or three times a week.
  • Empower the senior to care for themselves: Empower the senior to carry out as much of their self-care as possible. This can be difficult to do when you are pressed for time, as it may take them longer to complete simple tasks. Take steps to make it easier for them, such as ordering an electric razor and helping them find a low-maintenance hairstyle.
  • Explore adaptive tools: There are a variety of adaptive tools that can make bathing and grooming safer and less embarrassing. For example, instead of trying to wash a loved one’s hair while they are in the shower, purchase a hair-washing tray. This tool enables you to wash their hair in the kitchen sink while they are fully clothed. A shower chair can also be helpful. It lets the senior shower from a seated position allowing them a bit more privacy.
  • Minimize embarrassment: Plan ahead to minimize embarrassment and keep the conversation natural and relaxed. Have the senior’s towel and clothing ready to put on immediately after their shower. This will help protect their modesty and prevent them from becoming cold. While assisting them with their shower, talk about your plans for the day or some news item you watched on a morning show. Keeping the conversation casual can give you both an opportunity to direct your attention away from the embarrassment you both may be feeling. 
  • Create a peaceful environment: It may help to have some background noise to play during bath or shower time. Consider setting up a bath-time playlist or radio channel using an app like Pandora or iHeartRadio. Calming music or sounds of nature can help to fill awkward gaps in the conversation.

Our final tip is to try to keep a positive attitude and maintain your sense of humor. Doing so will probably help your senior loved one do the same.

Personal Care at Five Star Senior Living Communities

Support with personal care needs is one of the many services provided to residents of Five Star Senior Living communities. Call the community nearest you to learn more!

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