75+ Caregiver Tips: How To Convince An Elderly Person To Bathe ?

by | Beginners Info, Personal Hygiene

If you are going to be your elderly parent’s caregiver, you are making a decision which will involve taking on a huge amount of responsibility and many challenges along the way, and convincing your reluctant parent to bathe may be one of them.

How to convince an elderly person to bathe ? I have put together a list of over 75 real life caregiver tips, and strategies, that you can use to convince an elderly loved one to bathe. 

I look at how often a senior should wash, how to talk to them about this sensitively, the reasons why seniors may not be washing, how to initiate the subject with our parents, different strategies to get our loved one to bathe, and finally what to do if nothing works.

Step 1

How often should my loved one bathe, shower, or wash their hair ?

As long as an elderly parent doesn’t have activities that are getting them filthy, and they do not suffer from incontinence, showering or bathing once or twice a week should be adequate. 

Bathing less than once a week is not good, as your loved one could develop skin infections from bacteria on their skin.

On the days that seniors aren’t bathing, it is good to get them to clean their private areas, and also under their arms with a sponge, or a wet cloth.

You want to be careful with an elderly person’s skin, as it is thinner than a younger person’s, produces less oils, and tears and bruises more easily.

It is also important to note that it’s okay to have a sponge bath rather than a shower, or a bath in a bathtub.

You may also want to consider using milder soaps and shampoos, so as not to irritate your loved one’s skin and eyes.

And finally when your parent has bathed, it’s a good idea to have them moisturize, to stop their skin from getting too dry.

Tip #1

Don’t bluntly tell your parent that they smell

Don’t start out by mentioning body odor, or that they may look dirty. If you do so, you can make your parents feel angry with themselves, and with you, disappointed and reluctant to listen to you.

I have a rather bluntly titled article, “How to tell your parent they smell ?” where I discuss the chemical Nonenal that we start to produce on our skin after the age of 45, and which can have a very strong odor, and of which very few people are aware, and more importantly, how to get rid of the odor.

Tip #2

Try to work out why your parents may not be washing

Before saying anything, try to work out why they may not be washing themselves. Are there any obvious reasons that things may make it difficult for them to bathe ? Have you checked with their doctors, or other medical clinicians, about any changes in their health that you need to know about ?

Check through the list of reasons your parents may not be bathing listed in Step 3.

Step 2

How do I approach the conversation sensitively ?

Talking to any person about their personal hygiene can be a difficult subject, but to your own elderly parent it will probably be even trickier.

As your parent, your mom, or dad, may not be ready for such drastic role reversals, and having their children start advising them about their body odor, bathing and other areas of their lives may, at first, just be too much.

I have always found with my parents, to help them adjust, I need to go slowly with any discussions about bathing, or any other personal hygiene matters, and together we can solve any issues that come up.

Tip #3

Follow your parent’s lead

I’m very lucky in that my mom knows it is embarrassing for both of us, and that if I have to help her occasionally, we just have to get on with it.

But we do this –

  • at her speed
  • under her guidance
  • she tells me what it is she wants me to do
  • and also when I need to step away to let her take over

I know sometimes that we, as caregivers, are pressed to get things done because we may have more enjoyable things we would like to do.

But believe me, you are going to save time in the long term, if you approach the difficult subjects with tact, and at a speed that your loved one can handle.

Step 3

Reasons why our elderly loved ones may not be bathing

The following is a list of reasons, any one of  which, may be causing your loved one not to want to bathe, along with tips on how to address the different issues with your parents to help redress their reluctance.

1) Your parent may simply be exhausted

I read on one forum, that for one elderly gentleman a bath was the equivalent, for him, in shear physical effort, as a full gym workout had been for him in his younger days.

And I know that my mom is very often saying she is exhausted before she even starts the day.

If your loved one is predominantly sedentary, and really is not getting much exercise, it is very likely that they have poorer circulation than if they were more active, and will have less energy than someone who is still maintaining a greater degree of physical activity.

Tip #4

Offer to help set things out for a bath and to tidy up after they bathe

Help with setting the bathroom up with products and towels etc, and then clean it up for your loved one after they have used it.

You can also offer to help your loved one bathe to make it less of a physical exertion for them, or offer to get a professional in to help them bathe to make it easier. 

Tip #5

Help out with household tasks

If your parent says that they don’t want someone else bathing them, why not just offer to do some of their other tasks around the home so that they are less tired, and will have a bit more energy for bathing.

You can help with laundry, cleaning, do their shopping, make meals, gardening and more. 

Try to get your loved one to re-prioritize the bathing, with the understanding that you, or another carer, will take over some of the other tiring tasks.

Tip #6

Installing safety equipment can make bathing less exhausting

Why not make bathing, or showering, less exhausting by using a shower seat, or a sliding transfer seat for bathtub.

You could also add a grab bar to have something to hold onto if your loved one doesn’t want seats.

2) Problems with sleep patterns

As we get older we don’t require the same amount of sleep, and our sleep patterns can become somewhat erratic. This is often compounded with the need for a few visits to the bathroom in the night, as our bladders also get weaker.

If your loved one is suffering from these issues, they are also probably suffering from fatigue, and just don’t have the energy to do all the things they used to.

Tip #7

Help with daily chores

I would offer to help your loved one with the general day to day chores such as shopping and cooking, which will allow them to get a little more sleep.

If they can get more sleep they should have a bit more energy for bathing.

Tip #8

Check medications

It is always good to check with your parent’s doctor that they aren’t taking any medicines which may be disrupting their sleep, or may be making them go to the bathroom more at night.

3) Loss of mobility and pain with movement

The pain associated with joint disorders such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and knee or hip problems, can easily be enough to put your loved one off bathing.

I remember my mom before her hip replacement was having a terrible time with the pain, and stepping into the shower was very difficult, and standing for any length of time was out of the question.

Tip #9

Ask what you can do for your parent

If a person is in great deal of pain with mobility issues, they will probably accept some help with their bathing and showering.

You really need to press home the idea that you would like to help them, and that you are there to support them and to follow their lead.

You may need to emphasize the idea that you are there to help them maintain their independence in their own home.

Tip #10

Just offer to be present

If your parent is refusing to let you help, then you can offer to sit outside the bathroom, and be on hand to come and help them should they have moments when they need you. 

Tip #11

Sponges baths

If your loved one is not against you helping with bathing, but is having too much difficulty with the shower or bathtub, the answer may be taking sponge baths on the bad days.

Sponge baths can be done on the bed or sitting in a chair – commode chairs are very practical for this.

You have to be flexible, and any type of bath will get your loved one clean.

Tip #12

Use bath and shower seats

Provide seats for the shower and the bath.

If your loved one has problems with their legs you may want to get them an elevating seat, which will lower them down into the bath water without having to step in and out of the bathtub.

Tip #13

Keep everything within your parent’s reach when bathing

With people who are suffering from mobility and balance problems, you don’t want to be making them reach for things when they bathe, as they may over reach and lose balance.

Try and keep all the soaps, sponges, cloths and brushes together and with reach.

In the shower you can do it with a shower caddy that you can hang where it is most accessible.

Tip #14

Use a hand-held shower head

Use a hand held shower head so that your loved one can more easily get the water where they want it without having to bend too much.

Tip #15

Liquid soap, or soap on a string

Using either liquid gel soaps, or soap-on-a-string, helps avoid any time spent searching in water for bars of soap, and losing balance doing so.

Tip #16

Get the bathroom ready

To persuade your loved one, you can offer to set everything out ahead of time, to make things go more quickly, and to heat the bathroom so they don’t get cold.

Tip #17

Toweling bathrobe

A big toweling bathrobe for your parent to step into straight after they step out of the bathtub, or, shower will help keep them warm.

This will help with mobility and pain.

Tip #18

Prepare and heat the bedroom

Just as you did with the bathroom, you need to prepare and heat the bedroom for after your loved one has washed.

For people with mobility and pain issues it is much more comfortable to sit on the bed to dry off and get dressed, so make it warm before they do.

4) Fear of falling in the bathroom

Fear of falling can be another reason that your loved one is seemingly reluctant to bathe, especially if they are less sure of their footing and their balance when stepping into, and out of tubs and showers.

I have written a long article, full of practical ideas, tips and products, which will greatly improve your loved one’s safety in the bathroom, and cut down on the risk of falling. You can find my article here.

Here are a few of those tips which you can use to convince your loved one to bathe.

Tip #19

Walabot Home – Medical alert system

If you parents want to bathe on their own, and to do this alone in their home, along with all the devices and safety equipment you can install, there is a brand new medical alert system called Walabot Home.

The system is for bathrooms, and using radio waves it can tell if a person has fallen immediately, and then call their emergency contacts.

You pay for the device, and then only 4.99$ per month. There is nothing to wear, the device works automatically and is also voice activated.

The system will automatically call the telephones of nominated contacts in an emergency.

 

Tip #20

Walk-in bathtub and shower unit

Possibly the ultimate piece of equipment for someone who is afraid of falling in the shower or bathtub, is a walk-in bathtub with a shower unit. 

Tip #21

Grab bars and poles

If you can’t afford the walk-in tubs , then something you can do to make your loved one less fearful of bathing is to fit grab bars.

This will give them something to hang onto and make them much more stable.

You can get bathtub mounting bars, floor to ceiling poles, and grab bars that you fit to the wall in the shower.

If your parent lives on a low income, or their bathroom safety equipment could be a considered a medical necessity, find out how to get it covered by medicaid or medicare in my article “Does Medicare pay for bathroom safety equipment ?”

Tip #22

Walk-in showers

If you have a shower with a step, maybe you can change it to a walk in shower which will make it safer for seniors, and it may be enough to convince them to bathe alone, or with your help.

Tip #23

Non-slip mats

Non-slip mats can also for the shower and the bathtub can also make it safer in the bathroom, and help to reassure you parents that they’ll be okay to wash.

Tip #24

Non-slip floor products

You may also want to put non-slip tape on the floor to reduce the fall risk outside of the shower and the bathtub.

5) A loss of dexterity and strength in the hands

Problems with the hands can make all aspects of daily life difficult for the elderly, and in particular bathing and washing, where some strength and coordination are necessary to get one’s self clean.

Tip #25

Check with the doctor

Check with the doctor to see if there isn’t anything that help your parent’s hands.

If not they will most likely have to accept help.

6) Hearing loss and difficulties with vision

Vision and hearing loss can  quite a cocktail of challenges for your loved one, and won’t just hamper them in the bathroom, but will slow them down in absolutely everything that they undertake throughout the day.

My mom has AMD it causes her difficulty when she has to deal with changes of lighting in her surroundings, seeing things out on to the periphery on her bad side, and to sometimes lose her balance a little.

At every step of the way, loss of hearing and vision are there slowing her down, and inevitably mom is faced with a lack of time to get things done.

Tip #26

Bright lighting

Make sure that your loved ones have good bright lighting in the bathroom.

Tip #27

Safety Equipment

I would offer to put up all the safety features that I have previously mentioned, so that your loved one feels that they are at least safe in the bathroom.

If you haven’t looked at it yet, here is a link to  my lengthy article full of tips for bathroom safety – click here.

Tip #28

Help with daily tasks and bathing

Offer to help your loved one with either their bathing, or with other daily living tasks, so that they will have more time for their personal hygiene.

If you do a significant amount of the chores which are slowing them down, they will hopefully feel that they have the time to bathe.

Remember when you are proposing to do this, that it’s best if you ask your loved one what they would like you do, always insisting that you don’t want to interfere, and that you want to be lead by your parent. 

7) A dulling of the sense of smell

may lead to our loved one’s being blissfully unaware that their body odor may have become a little overpowering.

Tip #29

Green tea and persimmon soap

Not many people are aware that after the age of 40 our skin produces less antioxidants and as a result a compound called Nonenal is formed on our skin.

It is not the same as sweat, but it has an odor, often described as “grassy”. The compound is not soluble in water and soap, so it is hard to wash it off. So be warned that your parent may be washing, and it is the Nonenal that you are smelling.

It is the odor that you can often smell in retirement homes.

It doesn’t linger so much on the skin as in the linens and fabrics – so on the clothes.

The only way that you can get rid of the smell on the skin is to use Persimmon soap.

If you drink lots of green tea it will boost the levels of anti-oxidants in the body, and this can help curb the production of Nonenal.

Tip #30

Suggest taking your parent out

If you think it is just sweat that you are smelling, then I would suggest that you offer to take your loved one out for a treat, once or twice a week.

Hopefully, this will get them to shower or bathe beforehand, and if you’re lucky they may even say that they need a hand.

If they don’t clean up, you can then say to them that they need to take a little care, if you are going to take them out.

Most people love the idea of a treat and will clean themselves up to go out. 

8) Bathing products are causing skin problems

With age our skin gets thinner, produces less oils, becomes drier and more prone to tearing and bruising.

Your loved one may be finding that bathing products are irritating their skin, causing itching, or other uncomfortable conditions.

Tip #31

Buy some products for sensitive skin

In this case convincing our loved ones to bathe, may be as simple as helping them to choose some products for washing which don’t irritate their skin.

I have read many entries on different forums, and have come up with a list of different products that caregivers have had recommended to them by dermatologists, and others they have found themselves.

Here’s the list –

  • Cetaphil products
  • Olay body wash
  • Beckman Brothers Goats Milk products
  • Mirai Body Wash
  • Aloe Vesta moisturizer, body wash and hair wash
  • Oatmeal body wash and soaps
  • Bend Soap Company Goats Milk Soap
  • Dr Bonner’s Castille Soap
  • Lubriderm moisturizing lotion
  • Evoo moisturizing lotion
  • Senset Cleanser
  • Glycerin and Rose water lotion
  • Olive Oil as a lotion

9) Memory loss

This will affect pretty much everyone one of us as we get older, especially short term memory loss.

If your loved one doesn’t have a schedule, they may simply be forgetting to shower.

My mom has a schedule on which we can then check when she last bathed or showered.

Tip #32

A bathing schedule

Make a schedule and mark it on a board which you keep by the kettle, or some other place you parent frequently stops during the day.

It’s a simple solution, but pretty much the only one if your parent is suffering from memory loss – and remember they are not against bathing in this instance, they are just forgetting, and a simple chart may be all they need.

10) Depression

Depression cause anyone to lose their drive, and their motivation, to engage in activities, even those they once loved.

If your parents seem to be no longer enjoying engaging in activities and displaying a lot of apathy, these can be signs of depression, and you need to consult with their doctor. 

Tip #33

Talk to your parent’s doctor

I would suggest that you consult with their doctor if you feel that your loved one is suffering from depression.

If you can convince them to bathe this is most likely going to take a lot of rewarding with praise to keep them motivated.

Tip #34

Increase your parent’s social activities

You might find that your parents will respond to re-connecting with old friends, which could both get them motivated to bathe, and lift their spirits as well.

Increased social activity and contact with people can help to lift people out of a depression.

11) Dementia

Suffering with dementia may cause problems with bathing.

Your loved ones may not want to bathe, remember to bathe, or even completely forget how to bathe.

If your loved one suffers with dementia you should really consult with their doctor as they may need professional assistance.

In the case that you qualify for Medicaid and state sponsored plans, you can enquire about  –

Medicaid State Plan PCA Programs (Personal Care Attendant)

Your state may also offer Financial Assistance Programs which are not medical, and available to those who do not qualify for Medicaid.

The intention of these plans is to enable the elderly to continue living in their own homes.

You can check with your Area Agency on Aging to see where to find out about any financial assistance plans that your loved one may qualify for.

Tip #35

Talk to your parent’s doctor

With elderly parents who are showing signs of dementia, you really want to take them to see the doctor, even if you are not sure.

Tip #36

Stick to familiar routines

Try to always bathe, or shower, your loved one at the same time. If you stick to old established routines there should be less resistance to getting it done.

Tip #37

Don’t change bathing methods

Try to bathe your loved one in the manner with which they are most familiar and relaxed – be it a shower, or a sponge bath.

Tip #38

Create a relaxed atmosphere

A person with dementia may find a bathroom too hot, too cold, too dark, or even claustrophobic.

So you will need check the room temperature, make sure it’s well lit, and make the room seem nice and calm, maybe with some soothing music your parent likes.

Tip #39

Cover Mirrors

You must remember to cover any mirrors if your loved one no longer recognizes themselves, as they will think another person is watching.

Tip #40

Be careful with your speech

Always talk to your parent with a very soothing and reassuring voice, and explain each step you are taking as you go along.

Tip #41

Don’t rush the bathing

Go very slowly with the actual bathing and describe every step that you are about to take, and wherever possible let the person do as much for themselves as they can.

Try to stick to an exact sequence of steps every time, and this will mean that it stays relatively familiar to your loved one and it won’t create confusion.

Tip #42

Set out bathing items logically

Don’t forget to set everything out, and place things in the sequence that they are going to be used ie bathing products, towel and finally clothes and shoes.

 

Tip #43

Sufferers with spatial problems may find sponge baths easier

Suffers with dementia can have spatial problems, so getting into a bathtub may be scary for them, making it hard to convince them to bathe, so a sponge bath may be a much easier option in these cases.

 

Tip #44

Using no-rinse shampoos if your loved one is afraid of putting their head under water

Some sufferers with dementia have a fear of water being passed over their head, and may actually fear that they are drowning. 

A shampoo which doesn’t involve rinsing can be a good idea in such cases – there are foams that you can use, which just rub off with a towel.

 

Tip #45

Don’t bathe and wash hair at the same time

For those loved ones who have a problem with water on their heads, it is also a good idea to not bathe and to wash their hair at the same time.

This way they won’t associate the one with the other.

 

Tip #46

Go slowly, so your parent will be able to do as much as possible

As well as going very slowly, so as not to confuse or upset your loved one, it gives you the time to let them try to do as much as they can for themselves.

It’s important to let your loved one maintain as many of their basic skills as they can, for as long as they can.

This will help them to maintain higher self-confidence, and things will be less scary for them in general.

12) Fear of losing control over their lives

Bathing and personal hygiene are some of the most basic tasks in taking care of oneself, and if your parents are resisting your attempts to help them, it could be that they feel they are going to lose the control over their own lives.

Tip #47

Maintaining your parent’s independence

If your parent is digging in their heals more and more, and seem to be fearing they are losing control of their day-to-day lives, you need to stop insisting on helping.

It is better to just try to explain that you are only trying to help them maintain their independence, and not trying to take control of their lives.

13) A feeling of loss of dignity

Your loved one may well know that they need help, but would rather not bathe than ask you, or another person, to help them, as they feel they would be losing their dignity.

Tip #48

Sit in an adjacent room whilst your loved one bathes

You don’t have to be with your loved one in the bathroom, you can offer to simply be on hand, in another room nearby, should they need your help.

You can also take care of setting everything out in the bathroom, and cleaning up for your parent afterwards.

Tip #49

Ask your parent what they want you to do

Explain to your loved one that you are there to support them, and that you will only do the tasks that they ask you to do.

Tip #50

Let loved ones wash their private parts themselves

It is generally best to let your loved one wash their private parts themselves, and to decide whether or not they have them covered during bathing.

Tip #51

Covering private parts

Explain to your loved ones that even if you have to help them bathe, they can keep certain parts covered and maintain a level of privacy.

Covering up parts of the body, even wearing a swim suit during bathing, can make the experience of being bathed a more dignified one for seniors. And you can turn away, or briefly leave the room, when they uncover their private parts and wash them themselves.

14) Catching cold

Feeling the cold is a very often a cause for seniors not bathing frequently.

My dad, who had motor neuron disease, moved very slowly and even when I helped him shower, he would catch cold, and for this reason he wasn’t that fond of showering or bathing until we found a few solutions.

Tip #52

Heat up the bathroom and bedroom beforehand

One solution is to heat the bathroom and bedroom before your loved one bathes. They will have less chance of catching cold while they bathe, and when they dry themselves.

Tip #53

Get a toweling bathrobe for your parent

A toweling bathrobe which can be put on immediately after getting out of the shower, or the bathtub, will help combat the cold for your loved one, and may help you convince them to wash.

15) There is only so much time in the day

As our parents get older and slower they need to prioritize what tasks come first.

If our parents don’t feel there is enough time to bathe or shower, they may be consistently putting it off for a day or two.

And without them realizing it, those days may be starting to add up …

Tip #54

Offer to help speed things up

I think in this case you can simply offer to help in any way that your loved one wants,  helping them to set everything out in the bathroom, and cleaning up afterwards, or with washing themselves so they can get it done more quickly.

Tip #55

Offer to help with the chores

If your offer of helping your loved one to bathe is rejected, you can still offer to help with household chores, food preparation, freezing meals, or maybe doing the shopping, and this will free up the time for them to bathe.

16) Monotony

Tedium in a person’s routine can make one day seem to roll into the next, and in the case of an elderly person they may totally lose track of time.

If you combine this with a little memory loss, your loved one can very easily forget to bathe.

Tip #56

Make a chart with a schedule

The best solution here is to make some kind of chart with a schedule so that your loved one doesn’t forget to bathe. 

17) Budgetary constraints

Bad finances may be the reason for some poorer elderly people not bathing.

The cost of showering, and bathing, frequently may be too great for people who have small pensions, or no pension at all.

Tip #57

Gift your parent bathing products and more..

The only solution here is to assist your loved ones financially, if you can.

Buy the products that they require, and if you are able, help them to pay their bills.

18) Isolation

If people are alone most of the time they may feel that there is no need to make much of an effort to keep up appearances.

If you don’t get to see your parent very frequently, and they don’t have a social life, they may feel that there is not a lot of point in frequent bathing, or showering.

Tip #58

Help your parent socialize more

The best way to remedy this issue may simply be to help your parent get out more, or to bring their friends to them.

You have to hope that being more active will give you loved one the motivation they need to bathe and to groom themselves.

Step 4 

How do I start the conversation so that I can convince my elderly parent to bathe ?

Having looked at lots of possible reasons as to why your parents may not be bathing, its time to take a look at how you can actually approach the conversation.

Tip #59

You have to go slowly

Because being able to attend to one’s own personal hygiene is fundamental to being able to maintain one’s independence, if activities such as bathing become too difficult  for our loved ones to do, they may fear that they will lose their independence.

This is why you have to talk to them about such topics very gently.

Tip #60

Don’t make your parent feel dirty

You need to let your loved one keep their dignity, and not make them feel as though you find them dirty.

You don’t want to point out stains or smells.

Tip #61

Ask what you can do for your parent

If you know that your parent has physical issues and that they need your help with their personal hygiene, then you must simply ask –

“What do you need me to do for you?”

Tip #62

Have a supportive attitude

You also need to let your parent know that you are just there to provide support so that they can maintain there independence.

Let them know that you don’t want to interfere. This is easily done by showing a supportive attitude and shouldn’t need to be said out loud.

Tip #63

Bathing schedule

If your loved one acquiesces, the first thing to do is to set up a schedule for the bathing.

If you are helping them in any way with this, you need to let them set the times.

When you let your loved one keep the control, it will all go  much more smoothly.

Tip #64

Make it fun and spoil your parent

Once you have broken the ice, so to speak, and started the whole conversation about their bathing, you will want to find ways to make it fun if you are going to actually helping them bathe.

It will be a distraction from the initial embarrassment which you will both doubtless experience.

You can also spoil your parent as a reward, and get some special bath salts, or a really nice towel bathrobe for them.

Tip #65

Be flexible

Don’t be surprised if your loved one changes their mind from time to time, and won’t play along.

On these days I would try and get them to compromise with a sponge bath, or have them just wash their private areas with a cloth.

You will need to be flexible, and to concede that you can’t always have things the way you had anticipated them.

Step 5

What kinds of strategies can I use to convince my eldelry parent to bathe ?

The following tips are all different strategies which have been found to be successful by caregivers such as myself, and on forums across the web.

Tip #66

Softly softly bathroom strategy

A very simple strategy to use, is to take a look in your loved one’s bathroom, and to then start a conversation about whether, or not, they feel safe in the shower, or using the bathtub.

You can propose to install some of the equipment that I mentioned earlier.

The idea is just to get the conversation started, and to see if your loved one is afraid of falling. 

Tip #67

Safety bathroom strategy

You can also look in your loved ones bathroom and tell them that you’re going to worry if your parent doesn’t let you put up some grab bars, for example.

Again, you are trying to get your parent to talk about any issues that they may have with safety and bathing.

If they let you install some bars etc and they still don’t bathe, you will have to try some other strategies.

Tip #68

Strategy for the overwhelmed

If you believe that your parent isn’t bathing due to a lack of energy, along with being overwhelmed by all they have to do, you can start to offer to do the different chores to free up some time.

Tip #69

Swimsuit strategy

Quite a large number of people on caregiver forums were using the simple method of helping their parents to wash, wearing a bathing suit – both the caregivers and their older parents.

This allows the parent to have help, and to maintain some privacy. 

Tip #70

The treat strategy

A very frequently used method for getting a loved one to bathe, is to use some form of bribery. By this I mean a treat.

If your loved one has a favorite place to go eat, or a social activity they love, you can offer to take them if they have a wash beforehand.

Tip #71

Getting dirty strategy

One very ingenious chap, I read about, will ask his wife to help him in the garden, and then make sure that she gets thoroughly filthy.

And, although she does not normally like to bathe, she apparently goes of her own volition when she sees how covered in dirt she is.

Tip #72

Using your parent’s friends strategy

Enlisting the help of your parent’s friends with giving your parents the push, is a very easy way to convince them to bathe, without them resenting your meddling.

Sometimes your parent’s will have no problem receiving certain information from a good friend, and may even prefer to hear it from them, rather than their own child.

Tip #73

Regular family meals strategy

If you have a few family members near by, you could organize a meal once a week, and see if your loved one makes an effort to wash for this.

If they don’t, it probably won’t be long before someone else makes a comment.

Tip #74

Social security strategy

I read a few accounts of how some caregivers were having particularly hard times with their parents, until that was, that they told them that the social security would withdraw there financial assistance if they didn’t bathe.

I believe they told their loved ones that there were spot checks in people’s homes.

This seems rather extreme, but apparently it works wonders.

Tip #75

The luxurious or social strategy

Quite a lot of people said they were having good results with the bathing by focusing on the pleasure side, and turning it into quite a fun and luxurious event with their parents’ favorite products, and then with a social event afterwards.

Tip #76

Exercise strategy

Try and find out if you have an elderly center with some exercise classes, as you could take your parent there, and then afterwards you can simply say we need a wash now.

Tip #77

Overnight strategy

I was surprised to find that a number of people on forums, who either lived with their elderly parent, or who stayed the night, found that if they just told their parents to take their shower, or bath first, before they took one themselves, had no problems.

But if they didn’t suggest it, their parent’s didn’t bathe.

You can also add that if they shower or bathe before you, then you will be able to clean the bathroom when you have finished.

Step 6

I just can’t convince my elderly parent to bathe – what should I do ?

Tip #78

Involving the doctor and other medical practitioners

If you have exhausted all strategies, asked for help from your parent’s friends and family, and your loved one is still refusing to bathe, it is time to talk to their doctor.

Seniors usually have a good amount of reverence for their doctors, and the more they have to ask for their help, the more they will have confidence in them – as long as they are getting better.

You want to involve the doctor to find out if your loved one is suffering from some  form of mental incapacity, and because, if you have taken on the roll of your parent’s caregiver, you have a responsibility towards your parent.

Summary

To be able to convince an elderly person to bathe you need to work out why they aren’t bathing.

Is it –

a) because they have a physical, or a mental problem, which is causing them not to bathe,

or is it

b) more a lack of social contact and a feeling of isolation – a feeling of ‘I can’t be bothered”

Once you have discovered which it is, you can then try to employ different strategies to convince your loved one to wash themselves, and to give them the help they need.

As my dad’s, and now my mom’s caregiver, I have learnt that there are going to be many challenging moments everyday.

To get through the challenges, and to stay sane, you have to give up any ideas about the way things should be, such as personal hygiene, and to do what is possible, and best for your loved one.

Be happy with what you do succeed in doing, and let your loved one know that they have managed to do.

If you stay positive and focus on the good stuff, it will all be a lot easier.

The more you let your loved one know that things are going well, the more they will continue to do so.

I’m Gareth and I’m the owner of Looking After Mom and Dad.com

I have been a caregiver for over 10 yrs and share all my tips here.

Gareth Williams

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75+ caregiver tips: How to convince an elderly person to bathe ?
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75+ caregiver tips and strategies you can use to get even your most stubborn elderly loved one to bathe.
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Lookingaftermomanddad.com