Bathtime Safety Tips for Helping Our Aging Parents


by Kaye Swain

Bath stools are an excellent safety tool to help caregivers taking care of the elderly parents and relatives in their familyCaring for aging parents and looking for tips on helping them take baths? I have a few for you, starting with the recommendation of a wonderful resource book - Mosby's Textbook for Long-Term Care Nursing Assistants. Even if you never plan on taking the class or working as a nursing assistant, this book is a wonderful help for any of us taking care of the elderly parents and relatives in our family - including excellent advice and guidance for giving baths safely. In addition:

  1. Don't feel like your senior parents have to bathe daily. The very old, like the very young, can go 2-3 days or more without a bath and it's actually better for their frail skin. If there are messes from eating or bathroom issues, you just clean those areas up as needed.
  2. I highly recommend a hand held shower head. I personally use one similar tot he Moen handheld shower heads since it has a button on the handle that I can easily push to turn the water flow off and on. That way I only have to adjust the temperature of the water once and it stays the same even if I turn the water off and on several times. And it's so much easier to help them with washing and rinsing when the shower head is right there in your hands.
  3. I also recommend not using any bar soap. It can be very drying to their skin which is already so fragile. I personally like Oil of Olay body wash for older skin while my senior mom loves Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash.
  4. Whatever your favorite product is, make sure it is rinsed off thoroughly when you are done to protect their tender skin.
  5. Be very cautious about using bath oils and bubble baths in the water as they can be very slippery and dangerous.
  6. Grab bars and shower seats are a big safety help for aging parents who are very unsteady on their feet. The seats come in a variety of sizes and shapes and most places will allow you to easily take them home and be sure they fit or exchange them if they don't. That's a big plus for "buying local!"
  7. If your elderly parents have any kind of respiratory disorders, it's probably best to skip the powder. If they really want it, use as little as possible, pour it directly into your hands and rub it in very carefully and thoroughly so it doesn't get into their nose or mouth.

Bathing elderly relatives is definitely a challenge for all of us caregivers, but hopefully these tips will help make things a bit easier. Do you have more ideas and suggestions? We'd love to hear them.

Kaye Swain is a member of the Sandwich Generation dealing with the issues of caring for the elderly parents and relatives in her family while also babysitting grandchildren. She enjoys writing on those topics at SandwichINK, in order to provide other multigenerational caregivers with useful information, resources and encouragement.