Step-By-Step Guide on How to Help an Elderly Person in Showering
Updated: Sep 8
Helping an elderly person while showering is a critical task that many caregivers face. Showering regularly and correctly ensures their hygiene and promotes their health and well-being.
It can initially feel awkward and overwhelming if you're unfamiliar with the process but this guide will walk you through how to assist an elderly person in showering.
Setting Up Showering Supplies Within Reach
Before starting, it's essential to have all the necessary supplies within easy reach to avoid any discomfort or safety risks. Some items to consider include:
Detachable hand-held showerhead
Tear-free shampoo and liquid soap
Grab bars and shower chair or bench
Non-slip mats and stickies
Sponge or brush for washing
Terrycloth robe or cover-up
Additional items for enhanced comfort and safety might include a heat lamp (if your loved one gets cold), a shower water filter, and an anti-scald valve to prevent water temperature from getting too hot.
Preparing The Shower
After gathering all your supplies, bring them into the bathroom. Assist the senior in changing out of their regular clothes into a comfortable robe or cover-up.
Checking The Water Temperature
Before the senior steps into the shower, it's crucial to test the water temperature. Ideally, it should be warm and comfortable to prevent discomfort or burns.
Use your hand to check the water temperature, balancing the hot and cold water as necessary.
Guiding The Senior Into The Shower
With everything in place, assist the senior into the shower while they hold the grab bar. Take slow, measured steps to avoid slips or falls.
Once inside, help them to sit on the shower chair or bench. If they wish, they can drape a towel around themselves or use a hairdresser's cape for privacy during the process.
Assisting with the Washing Process
Some seniors may be able to wash certain parts of their body independently. Allow them this autonomy, and step in only when necessary.
Start with the cleanest areas like the face and arms, moving towards the torso, back, legs, and ending with the feet.
Let the senior clean their private areas themselves unless they're unable to do so. During this time, keep an eye out for any skin rashes or sores.
Choosing the Right Body Wash for Seniors
Another crucial aspect to consider while assisting an elderly person in showering is the choice of body wash.
As we age, our skin becomes more delicate, susceptible to dryness, and prone to irritation. Therefore, selecting a gentle, nourishing body wash is of paramount importance to maintain skin health and comfort.
Here are a few tips on how to choose the right body wash:
Opt for Hypoallergenic and Non-Irritating Formulas
Choose body washes that are hypoallergenic, meaning they are less likely to cause allergic reactions. Look for products specifically labelled as "for sensitive skin" or "dermatologist-tested". These terms indicate that the product has been specially formulated to minimise potential skin irritation.
Moisturising Ingredients are Essential
Dry skin is a common issue among seniors, making it vital to select a body wash with moisturizing ingredients. Look for products that contain natural oils like olive oil, jojoba oil, or coconut oil, and ingredients like shea butter or aloe vera that can help hydrate the skin
Avoid Harsh Chemicals
Avoid body washes that contain harsh chemicals, such as sulfates (often listed as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate), parabens, and artificial fragrances, as these can dry out and irritate the skin. Instead, look for body washes with natural ingredients and mild, natural fragrances.
Look for pH-Balanced Products
The skin's natural pH is slightly acidic, around 5.5. Using a pH-balanced body wash can help maintain the skin's natural pH level and protect its barrier function, which is essential for skin health.
Consider Soothing Ingredients
Body washes with soothing ingredients like chamomile, oatmeal, or green tea can provide additional comfort for seniors with particularly sensitive or irritated skin. Choosing the right body wash can make a significant difference in the overall showering experience for seniors.
Not only does it help in maintaining their skin health, but it also contributes to their comfort during and after the shower.
Identifying Potential Health Concerns While Showering
While assisting an elderly person with their showering routine, it's crucial to stay alert to any changes in their health condition. In many cases, these changes are first noticeable on the skin. Therefore, keep an eye out for the following signs:
🟥 Skin Discoloration: Pay attention to any changes in the color of the skin. Paleness, redness, or a blue tint can indicate potential circulatory problems. Yellowing of the skin may suggest liver problems.
🟥 Moles and Spots: Look out for new moles or changes in the size, color, or shape of existing moles. These changes could be early signs of skin cancer and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
🟥 Swelling: Any noticeable swelling, particularly in the legs and feet, could be a sign of poor circulation or heart issues. If the swelling is accompanied by pain or tenderness, it may be a sign of a more severe condition, such as deep vein thrombosis.
🟥 Dry or Cracked Skin: Elderly people often suffer from dry skin, but if the condition worsens or leads to cracking, this could leave the skin vulnerable to infections.
🟥 Unexplained Bruises or Wounds: Any bruises or wounds that the elderly individual cannot explain should be taken seriously. They may indicate falls or injuries that they may not want to, or can't, share.
🟥 Rashes or Allergic Reactions: Rashes or other signs of skin irritation can indicate an allergic reaction to a new product, or may be symptomatic of an underlying disease.
Remember, it's important not to diagnose these conditions yourself. If you notice any of these signs, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation. Regularly checking for these signs while assisting in the shower can help catch potential health problems early and ensure timely treatment.
Helping with Hair Washing
Depending on the senior's capabilities, you might need to help with shampooing and conditioning their hair. Using a no-tears shampoo can prevent any discomfort if it accidentally gets in their eyes.
Rinse, Exit the Shower Safely, and Dry
At the end of the shower, use a detachable showerhead to rinse off thoroughly.
Make sure the senior has a non-slip mat to step onto after the shower.
Wrap them in a soft terrycloth robe, reaching under it to remove the towel or cape they used for privacy. If necessary, help them towel-dry gently, taking care not to irritate sensitive or injured skin. If their skin tends to dry out, assist them in applying lotion after the shower.
Ensuring the safe installation and use of grab bars and shower chairs is vital in the process.
Grab bars should ideally be placed near the faucet handles, on the side wall, and at the shower's entrance to prevent senior falls.
Shower chairs should be stable and equipped with slip-resistant feet, a backrest, padded arms, and adjustable legs.
Assisting an elderly person in showering can be a relatively simple and safe process with the right preparations and approach. By respecting their privacy and offering positive reinforcement throughout, you can make the experience more comfortable and less daunting for both of you.
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The Adaptive Clothing Australia Team