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How Often Should an Elderly Person Bathe or Shower?

Showers are an integral part of proper hygiene, but taking shower every day is a real struggle for elderly persons and their caregivers. Often attempts to bathe elderly persons lead to arguments, crying, screaming, and a lot of hostility. It’s stressful for everyone involved. But the thing is, even if elders are battling shower time, it’s important to keep them bathed and clean.

Staying clean is essential for protecting their skin, preventing all sorts of infections and diseases, and keeping them feeling refreshed. Regular bathing also prevents harmful states such as unpleasant body odors, serious skin infections, and urinary tract infections.

But that doesn’t mean you need to bathe seniors daily. Moreover, showering every day is not recommended for seniors’ health.

old person shower

How Often Should an Elderly Person Shower?

Daily showers are nice, but if the elderlies don’t want to shower every day, there’s no reason to stress them and yourself about it. At a minimum, elderly people only need to shower once or twice a week to prevent their skin from breaking down and prevent skin and urinary tract infections.

Taking a shower daily is only a preference. From a medical perspective, showering every day is not a strict requirement to keep someone clean and healthy, especially for seniors. In fact, it’s common to shower less frequently as people age.

Older people also produce less oil in the skin and are less likely to sweat because of strenuous activities. As seniors tend to be less active, they can easily get away with fewer showers.

But there’s always an exception. Showering once or twice per week is acceptable to ensure general cleanliness for seniors, but it’s also important to consider their specific needs and health conditions. Some elderly individuals may need showers more frequently than others for medical reasons.

Considerations when choosing a shower schedule for seniors include:

  • Keeping seniors clean regularly or more frequently reduces their likelihood of fighting and resisting.

  • You can bathe them once or twice per week and only use a warm washcloth to wipe their skin, feet, armpits, groin, and genitals in between showers to minimize body odor.

How to Help Older Adults Take a Shower

If seniors can still shower by themselves, this is the better course of action;  but always be ready to lend a helping hand. It’s helpful to let them do as much of the showering as possible.

How do you help seniors take a shower?

  1. Set the shower supplies within reach and prepare the shower. Check the water temperature using your hand. Ensure that the water isn’t too hot or too cold.

  1. Once the temperature is all set and the supplies are ready, guide the senior into the shower slowly. Let them hold onto the grab bar for support. You don’t want them slipping or stumbling on the wet shower floor. They can either stand in the shower or sit on a stool to save energy and avoid slipping. Sitting on a shower chair also helps elderlies who have some trouble with balance and walking.

  1. Allow seniors to shower on their own unless they are not physically able. Put shower gel or soap on the sponge or washcloth and give it to them, letting them clean themselves. You can help wash the areas that they can’t reach, like their legs and feet, if they have problems bending down.

  1. Gently remind them to start washing with the cleanest area of their body, like their face, then going down to their shoulders and back, torso, legs, and feet. Save cleaning the private parts for last.

  1. If you’re helping them shower, take the time to check for any rashes or sores on their skin. Pay closer attention to the areas with creases, like folds on the stomach or under the breasts. Also, check the bony areas like shoulders and elbows. If you see any lesions or redness,  avoid rubbing these areas to prevent further damage to the skin.

  1. Offer to wash their hair as they might have a hard time lifting their arms high enough to properly shampoo their hair.

  1. Hand them the detachable showerhead to rinse off, or you can offer to do it for them. Once done, hand them a towel or terry cloth bathrobe to dry and cover-up. If they need help drying after a shower, guide them to a non-slip rug before helping them towel dry. Help them dry areas they have a hard time to reach like their backs and between their toes.

  1. Offer to put some lotion or moisturizer on them after the shower. Moisturizing after showers helps ward off dryness, especially in seniors prone to the condition. But avoid putting lotion on areas that can easily become moist, like folds in the groin or under the breasts.

These showering tips apply to seniors who are still mobile. But it’s a different matter if they have limited mobility or suffer from dementia. In that case, a typical shower routine might be difficult, and a sponge bath might be your only option.

How to Bathe Seniors with Limited Mobility

A senior adult doesn’t always need to bathe in running water. Giving them a sponge bath will work just fine. Sponge baths also work for the elderly who despise getting into the shower. To provide an adequate sponge bath:

  1. Ensure that they are warm and covered with a nightgown or a bathrobe while you prepare your supplies.

  1. Start washing them from the top of the body, working your way down, but saving the private parts for last since they tend to be the dirtiest.

  1. To keep the sponge bath as comfortable as possible, uncover only the body parts you are cleaning  as you wash them.

  1. Wipe areas one at a time and keep changing washcloths between sections. This is  to ensure that you are not wiping them with a dirty cloth.

If needed, you can also work with bathing wipes, no-rinse shampoos, and waterless cleansers. But each of these may leave some residue, so you will want to do a final wipe with a clean, damp cloth afterward.

Tips for Getting Old People to Shower

To keep seniors as comfortable as possible during showers or sponge baths, try:

  • Playing soft and soothing music. It also helps calm seniors when they are feeling anxious or stressed.

  • Making the shower or room toasty warm. Keeping the shower time as pleasant as possible will help reduce objections and make it more enjoyable for them.

  • Dimming the lights.

  • If you are using a bathing wipe for a sponge bath, warm them up for 10-second intervals in the microwave.

  • During a shower, give them massages and rubs, especially on the shoulders, back, arms, and legs, to ward off stress and keep them as relaxed as possible.

  • Instead of shower time, call it “spa time.” A spa is a more soothing and calming activity than a shower.

Can Seniors Shower Too Much?

Taking showers will keep seniors healthy and well-groomed, but too much showering is also not good. Seniors can suffer some negative side effects when they shower too much.

  • Dry Skin. Showering strips the skin of its natural oils, drying it out. Showering too often will dry out the skin too much, leading to flaky and sometimes itchy skin.

  • Skin Infections. Dry and flaky skin, when left untreated, can lead to cracking. Cracked skin invites infection, a real risk with older adults since they tend to have weaker immune systems.

To sum up, there’s no fixed recommendation as to how often seniors should take a shower. But it’s typical to shower them once to twice a week to keep them clean and their skin healthy. You can always give them a wipe or sponge bath in between showers if needed.

Mandy Phillips

As a frequent contributor to top US magazines and publications in the home improvement niche, Mandy has been known for sharing her expertise on how to clean, organize, and decorate bathrooms.

Additionally, Mandy has immense experience offering lifestyle tips and tricks to her readers.

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At Loo Academy, our mission is to offer trusted advice for everything related to bathrooms (design ideas, plumbing advice, showering & bathing tips, remodeling guides, and more) — a place where we all spend a great deal of time.

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