Readers ask: How Can Elderly People Bathe Themselves?

What to Do When a Senior Refuses to Bathe and Change Their Clothes

The best way to devise a successful strategy is to figure out why a senior’s bathing habits have changed. Frustrated family caregivers struggle to persuade loved ones to bathe more frequently, which can result in minor body odor and an unkempt appearance.


It’s important to rule out depression if a loved one who used to wear makeup, bathe regularly, or refuse to wear a wrinkled shirt suddenly stops taking care of themselves. A simple checkup with a doctor is a good idea for those feeling unwell.

Respect and Control

Seniors tend to keep a tight grip on their own personal hygiene, and caregivers and family members can nag all they want, but the more you pester them, the more they tend to resist.

Dulling Senses

The aging process weakens one’s senses, particularly one’s sense of smell, and elderly people are especially “nose blind” to their own and their home’s odors. As a result, many seniors begin showering and changing less frequently because it is more difficult for them to notice body odor.


Because many seniors’ days aren’t as jam-packed with activities as they were when they were younger, it’s easy to lose track of time and forget how long it’s been since they’ve showered. If Wednesday isn’t special, it might as well be Tuesday or Thursday.

Fear and Discomfort

Taking a shower or bath used to be a regular part of their routine, but now it carries significant risks, such as a bruised ego, a broken hip, or even a permanent change in mobility.

Cognitive Impairment

Bathing dementia patients can seem impossible, as fear and discomfort are often amplified by the disease. A weekly shower may seem like a godsend to some caregivers, but it’s difficult for dementia patients to remember when they last bathed.

A Caregiver’s Experience With Elderly Hygiene Issues

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and scaly skin can be serious setbacks for an aging loved one, so caregivers must do something to help them maintain their personal hygiene.

How to Convince an Elderly Person to Bathe and Wear Clean Clothes

It may take some trial and error to figure out what works best for you both, but making the time and effort is critical.

Use Their Doctor as a Resource

A doctor can determine if depression is a factor and whether antidepressants can help them feel better. A renewed interest in life may make a senior more aware of the need (or desire) to shower/bathe, and medical professionals can rule out other factors that may be affecting their ability and/or willingness to care for themselves.

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Overcome the Poor Hygiene Power Struggle

Bribery may seem childish, but the promise of a special treat can be a powerful motivator. See if you can get a close friend to call and invite you out to lunch or another gathering. Having a reason to get dressed for someone other than family can sometimes do the trick.

Use the Right Bathing Aids and Products to Maximize Comfort

A hand-held shower head can be useful for bathing a loved one who is afraid of or overwhelmed by water, and grab bars are another must-have for those who are afraid of falling; simply having additional points of support can help a senior navigate safely into and out of the shower.

Frame the Hygiene Conversation Positively

When pointing out body odor or soiled clothing, be gentle. If your loved one needs assistance in the shower, refer to bath days as “spa days,” and use scented body wash and their favorite lotion afterwards to help them focus on the experience.

Tread Softly With Loved Ones Who Have Dementia

When it comes to getting dementia patients to shower, go slowly and gently and schedule difficult tasks when they are most cooperative, rather than insisting on a full shower/bath and outfit change all at once. These small victories can serve as a stopgap between full baths or showers.

Hire a Bath Aide to Help

Caregivers are trained to assist people of all physical and cognitive abilities, and they know how to take a shower or bath quickly, thoroughly, and respectfully. Some home care companies are better than others at sending the same bath aides on a consistent basis. Read: How to Choose a Home Care Company.

Consider Long-Term Care Options

Many caregivers must accept the fact that their loved ones will never regain their physical or mental abilities, making the decision to place them in an assisted living facility, memory care unit, or nursing home difficult. However, many seniors thrive in these settings, and staff may be more successful at encouraging proper hygiene.

Compromise Is the Key to Better Senior Hygiene

It’s time to try something new if your current approach isn’t working. Taking a loved one to a doctor’s appointment or outing looking disheveled and smelling dirty is embarrassing.

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What is the best way to bathe an elderly person?

Begin by washing the top of the elderly person’s body, starting with the shoulders and moving down each side of the body with body wash and warm water. Rinse their body with warm water using a separate wash cloth and the water you have set aside for rinsing.

Why do elderly not want to bathe?

The elderly may avoid bathing for a variety of reasons, including pain while standing, bending, or sitting, a fear of water and/or its sound (which is especially true for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia), and a fear of falling on hard bathroom surfaces due to poor balance.

How can we help the elderly clean themselves?

For seniors who want to participate in their hygiene, bathing wipes, long-handled shower brushes, no-rinse shampoo caps, and easy-grip nail clippers can be invaluable. Assistive devices like hair washing trays can also make it easier for caregivers to complete hygiene tasks quickly and without causing discomfort.

How often should a elderly person bathe?

Bathing once or twice a week helps most seniors avoid skin breakdown and infections, and using warm washcloths to wipe armpits, groins, genitals, feet, and any skin folds in between full baths also helps minimize body odor. However, some dementia caregivers say it’s actually easier to bathe every day.

At what age are you considered elderly?

According to the Social Security Administration, 9 out of 10 people over the age of 65 are eligible for Social Security benefits, and 65 is the legal age at which U.S. citizens are considered seniors.

Why do elderly sleep a lot?

Is It Normal for Elderly People to Sleep a Lot? As we get older, we tend to get less deep sleep than we did when we were younger, and it’s common for older adults to wake up frequently throughout the night due to aches from arthritis, an overactive bladder, or even increased sensitivity to sounds or temperature changes.

How often should a woman bathe?

Some dermatologists recommend showering every other day or two to three times per week, but most people shower at least once a day, either in the morning or before bed, and you may even take two or three showers depending on the day and your activity level.

What happens if you never bathe?

The skin would become oily or dry, infected with fungus or yeast, then bacteria, and the dirt on the skin could cause warty growths, according to Lauren Ploch, director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology. The oily parts of your body would collect dirt and pollutants, according to Dr. Caroyln Jacob, director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology.

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What do you do when your elderly parent refuses to bathe?

Seek medical help. Your doctor can determine if your parent is depressed and possibly prescribe medication to help. They can also have a conversation with your loved one about cleanliness, and you can ask your doctor how frequently an elderly person should bathe.

What make bathing easier for elderly?

We found it easier for them with their reduced mobility, or just stiffness, to sit on a bed in a towel and dry themselves there, so have a towel bathrobe ready to put on straight out of the shower, or bath, and some sturdy shoes and go through to the bedroom (the towel robe will keep them warm and start to dry them).

Why do elderly have poor hygiene?

Because of mobility issues or because they are physically unable to perform their normal hygiene routines and are afraid to speak up, aging adults frequently develop poor hygiene. Whatever the reason, it is critical to identify the issues and discuss potential solutions to help them stay clean and healthy.

How often should an elderly person wash their hair?

In general, older adults only need to wash their hair once a week; however, for seniors who are hesitant to wash their hair more frequently, dry shampoos can be useful in the days between wet washings.

Do elderly need more sleep?

Seniors require roughly the same amount of sleep as younger adults u2014 seven to nine hours per night u2014 but many do not get enough sleep because they have more difficulty falling asleep.

How much sleep is too much for elderly?

Adults (18-64) should sleep for 7-9 hours, while older adults (65+) should sleep for 7-8 hours.

How often should a 70 year old shower?

Bathing once or twice a week is sufficient for older adults, as the goal is to prevent skin breakdown and infection. Seniors are also less active than younger adults, so they can get away with fewer baths. However, you don’t want your loved one to develop body odor.

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