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Caregiving: How to Help With a Shower

Overview

A shower can increase a person's sense of comfort and well-being. And it's also a good time to check their skin for sores or rashes.

How often a person bathes can depend on their condition and their wishes. If you can, try to let the person choose when they bathe.

To take a shower, the person may need help to step over the side of a bathtub or the edge of a shower stall. But they may need only a little help to take a shower. Let them do as much of the bathing as possible.

Handrails and a non-skid mat inside and outside the shower or tub can help prevent falls. A shower chair or a bench also is a good idea. You can find many styles of these devices. With a shower chair, the person can sit in either the shower or the tub while bathing. A bench sits on the edges of the bathtub. The person can sit on the bench and then swing their legs into the tub. The bench can help a person get into the tub and can be used during the shower.

As you help to undress and bathe the person, try to be as relaxed as possible. If you are calm and don't seem embarrassed, they may feel more comfortable.

Give the person as much privacy as possible. If the person is safe alone for a while and is able to bathe without help, shut the door or close a curtain and step out of the bathroom. But stay close in case they ask for help.

If the person you're caring for has dementia, they may not remember how to take a shower. Some people are afraid of the water or don't like how it feels. A removable hand-held shower head with a long hose may help the person feel more comfortable and in control of where the water is directed. If the person doesn't want to get under the water, don't force them. Encourage them to have a sink bath instead.

Preparing for a shower

When you help someone take a shower, start by gathering materials. You will need:

  • Face cloths or bath sponges.
  • Towels.
  • A bar of soap or liquid soap.
  • Tear-free shampoo or no-rinse shampoo.
  • Body lotion that is especially for dry skin.
  • A removable showerhead with a long hose (if you have one).

Offer the person a robe for comfort and privacy while you set up the shower supplies. A terry cloth robe works well because it can be worn after the shower to help the person dry off. Set up the shower chair or bench. Help the person onto the chair if they need help.

Let the person take off the robe, but give help if they need it. Remember to use the back of your hand to test the water to make sure it's not too hot or cold.

You don't have to wear gloves, but it might be a good idea if the person has been vomiting or has had diarrhea. And it's a good idea to wear a mask if you or the person has an illness that can spread, such as a cold or influenza (flu).

Helping with the shower

  • Once the person is safely in the shower, put soap on the face cloth or sponge and give it to them. Let the person wash themself. You can wash areas that they can't reach, such as the back.
  • Gently remind the person you're caring for that it's best to start with the cleanest areas and finish with those that are less clean. They can start with their face, then wash their arms, torso, back, and then the legs and feet. They can finish by cleaning the groin and anal areas.
  • Help the person wash their hair with tear-free or no-rinse shampoo.
  • Hand them the removable shower head to rinse off. Or you can do it if it's too hard for them to manage.
  • Wait for any standing water to drain before helping the person safely get out of the shower.
  • Give the person a towel to dry off, and help dry their back and any other areas that are hard to reach, such as between the toes.
  • Offer some body lotion. Don't put lotion on areas that can become moist, such as under the breasts or in the folds of the groin.

When you help someone bathe, remember to check their skin as you go for signs of rashes or sores. Pay special attention to areas with creases, such as under the breasts or the folds on the stomach. Also, look at bony areas, like the elbows and shoulders. If you see any redness, do not rub or massage the red areas. It could cause more tissue damage.

Credits

Current as of: March 27, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Gayle E. Stauffer, RN - Registered Nurse

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