Taking a shower is something you do every day, and likely put little thought into. Taking a bath might even be a luxurious way for you to relax and unwind at the end of a long day. For your elderly parent, however, these tasks might not be as simple. Physical challenges, mobility issues, balance problems, and even cognitive functioning decline can make it difficult or even impossible for your parent to bathe on their own, requiring you to help them in order to ensure they get clean while staying safe. For many elderly adults, difficulty bathing is one of the first signs of really needing help with daily tasks, and it can be very emotionally difficult for them. As their family caregiver it is essential you take steps to show respect, and to preserve your parent’s dignity as you help them bathe. This will make them more willing to accept your help, protect your relationship, and keep their mental and emotional health guarded.
Use these tips to help you show respect and preserve dignity while helping your senior bathe:
- Let them undress privately if possible. Provide them with a bathrobe or large towel such as a bath sheet to cover themselves after they have undressed, and before getting into the bath or shower. If you must help them undress, do so quickly, and have them cover themselves as you undress them if they feel uncomfortable.
- Avoid touching them with your bare hands. Instead, use a shower mitt or wear gloves. Not coming into contact with their bare skin directly can feel less personal, and more respectful.
- Talk to them throughout the process and tell them each step you are taking. Tell them what part you will wash next, and always ask for permission or confirmation so they do not feel as though you are simply taking over, or forcing them through this process.
- Encourage your parent to participate in the bathing process as much as possible. Give them a shower mitt or a sponge that is easy to hold, fill it with bath gel or soap, and encourage them to wash parts of their body that are easily accessible, or that may be sensitive. This helps them to feel more independent and autonomous, and shows respect to them as an individual.
- Never shame or embarrass them. Regardless of what you experience during the bathing process, avoid showing discomfort or distaste, as this can cause emotional strain, and make your parent less likely to cooperate with you for other elements of your care.
Simply because you love your parent and are happy about your role as their family caregiver does not mean you are going to feel comfortable handling all of the challenges and care tasks your parent needs. You may be faced with a care task or responsibility that is too difficult for you, or that you cannot handle due to your own limitations, such as lack of physical strength. Whatever the reason you do not feel you can manage all of your parent’s needs, you can feel confident elder care is there to help. An elderly home care services provider can be there to fill care gaps and manage needs you may be concerned will go unmanaged. This not only means your parent will have consistently better care and more support as they age in place, but it can also reduce stress and improve your relationship with your senior while also letting you focus your energy and effort on other elements of your care routine more efficiently.