Tips on how to be more helpful when assisting your loved one to bathe or shower. Things that you need to think about when becoming a helper. Understanding your own feelings and beliefs in this personal issue. Understanding your loved one’s feelings, wants and beliefs in this most personal area.
February 8, 2023
You two have been through a lot. You are a team, usually. You are both independent and self-sufficient. Then, things change and you are no longer self-sufficient. You need help because of a stroke. You need help because of cancer. You need help because of Parkinson’s disease. You need help because of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. No matter the reason, your wife needs help with one of the most intimate parts of her life.
We don’t think about it much, but we each how our own ways of doing things. They are our own patterns and our own order of doing things. Most partners do not know their significant other’s daily routine. When you are the helper, you need to be aware that your loved one has their own way of doing things. They have their own schedule and order in which to do things.
Try this experiment. Each of you writes down exactly what you do from when you wake up to when you go to sleep that evening. I mean everything with the time of day noted. We won’t get into the getting dressed procedure. I know, some of you have this puzzled look on your face. We all have our preferred way of getting dressed and we have specific ways we do things. For example, I place my left arm first, whether it is my shirt or jacket. It is automatic for me; if I even try to do it with my right arm first, I can’t do it easily AND I am out of sorts mentally.
Now, the next day write down your partner’s daily routine with times noted. Do this from what you have observed or what you assume they do. You will probably get the big things right, but probably not all of the little things.
Find a time to go over the information. Make it a date night. Talk about it and see how close you are to know each other’s routine. What are the similarities? What are the differences? This is a big-picture type of exercise. We all have our own routines.
When you are the helper or caregiver, it is best for the caree (your loved one) to be as comfortable and safe as possible. In order for that to happen, you need to know their routine and their times. We automatically do things in our routine and we don’t realize that others have other routines. Doing their routine becomes doubly important when your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.
Guess what? Female anatomy is different from male anatomy. We don’t automatically know to help the other person with bathing. We don’t automatically know how to wash and clean some private areas effectively. We don’t automatically know what to lotion and what to powder. Sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know until we get in the big middle of it. That can be very stressful.
What follows are the supplies needed and the how-to tips to help you help your wife.
- Grab bars installed properly and permanently. Place one above the water turn-on area, too.
- Non-slip grips on bottom of tub
- Portable heater to warm up the room
- Shower seat or shower chair for tub
- Tub rail grab bar
- Hand-held shower head with 5–7-foot hose length
- Remove trip hazard rugs
- 4 Towels
- 2 Washcloths
- 2 Hand towels
- Pouf for bodywash – may have a handle
- Bar soap – gentle or sensitive skin type for washing privates and underarms
- Bodywash -for washing other body areas
- Conditioner – apply on hair and immediately rinse off
- Facial moisturizer
- Barrier cream or protectant – if needed
- Powder or Talc – if needed
- Gloves – nitrile seems to be the best
- Pump supplies are easier to use
- Cotton terry robe will help in the drying off stage, too.
- Always have them sit on the toilet to pee first before getting into the tub. Warm water brings on the urge to pee and if it happens in the tub, no big deal move on.
- Let the water run for 1 -2 minutes and check the temperature on the inside of your wrist before putting any water on them.
- You may want to place a hand towel on the shower seat for warmth or comfort
- Encourage them to wash everything that they can wash – promotes dignity and independence
- Use a gait belt – get trained in how to use one first
- As the helper, you need to remain calm and relaxed. It will be slower than you anticipate. If your approach is more of a loving gesture and a desire for them to feel good, it will go a lot smoother.
- If you have the attitude of getting in, getting it done, and getting out…it is probably time to hire this job out.
- Use the gloves – it helps to separate intimate touch from helping with a need
- Use a hand towel over their lap to promote privacy and dignity while they are seated on the shower seat
Order of Washing -Be Gentle
- Wash the face and neck first and dry the face
- Have them place a washcloth over their eyes while you wash their hair and condition it. Ask them to tip their head back. Scalp massages feel really good.
- Dry the hair with a hand towel
- If they can, have them hold the shower handle
- If they can wash themselves, then you soap up the washcloth or pouf
- Wash their back in a circular motion all the way down to the buttocks
- Wash the arms and underarms next
- Wash the front torso and under the breasts – wash skin folds well, too
- Rinse them off really well
- Place a towel over the top half of the body and pat dry a little (helps keep them warm)
- Wash the legs and have them lift up one at a time or gently lift them up. If they can stand then have them stand.
- Wash the feet and in between the toes (while they are sitting)
- Tell them it is time to wash private parts. Offer them the option to wash their own private parts, even if you need to help some.
- Use a clean washcloth and clean the vulvar area – use a different clean area of the washcloth for each swipe
- Clean from clean to dirty = front (vaginal area) to back (anal area)
- Separate the labia with one hand and clean gently with a downward motion to the perineum area (area between vagina and anus)
- Separate buttocks and clean from bottom to top area
- Rinse very well
- Talking throughout the bathing process and telling them what you are doing or will be doing next seems to help everyone calm down
- Use a towel to pat dry and dry well
- Areas that need extra care to be dry – vulvar area, anal area, underboob area, all skin folds and in between toes
- Gently get them out of the tub. Dry them off again or place a terry cloth robe on them to help with that. They can either stand or sit on the commode (lid down and with a towel placed on the lit) while you lotion them, powder them, and put on deodorant. Dry and style the hair. ** Note, some want to dry and style their hair before applying lotion and anything else. Some brush their teeth either before getting into the shower or right after getting out and drying off. Ask what they want to do. **
- Apply barrier or skin protectants to areas needed (usually incontinent folks need this)
- Never lotion between toes (want to prevent fungal or other infections)
- Places to put powder or talc – underboobs (skin under the breasts, and torso area where they touch), skin folds (anywhere there is skin-on-skin contact that does not get a lot of air circulation)
- Do not put anything in or right around vagina (it is self-cleaning)
- Help them into their clean clothes
- They may need a nap after a bath, it is hard work
Getting clean makes all of us feel better. Change the sheets on the bed on a bath day. Some bathe every day and some bathe 2 or 3 times a week. That is fine. Find what works best for your loved one and you.
It is also fine if you hire a shower aide to come into your home to help with bathing your loved one. You will still have to do the daily cleansing needed which includes face, underarms, underboobs, skinfolds, feet, in between toes, vulva area and anal area. This is sometimes referred to as a sponge bath.
Products to Consider:
CeraVe Body Wash for Dry Skin
Kiehl’s Grapefruit Bath & Shower Liquid Body Cleanser
Aveeno Restorative Skin Therapy Sulfate-Free Body Wash
Dial Clean + Gentle Body Wash, Aloe
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Fragrance-Free Hydrating Body Gel Cream
Olay Moisture Ribbons Plus
Dove Beauty Sensitive Skin Body Wash
Dove Body Wash for Dry Skin
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Wash AP+ Body & Face Wash
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Eucerin Daily Hydration Lotion
Vaseline® Intensive Care™ Advanced Repair
Lubriderm Daily Moisture Lotion Shea + Enriching Cocoa Butter
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Moisturizing Body & Face Cream
NIVEA Essentially Enriched Body Lotion
CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer UV SPF 30
Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30
Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 35
Unscented Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Face Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid
Aveeno Calm and Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer Unscented
Cetaphil Gentle Clear Moisturizer
Neutrogena Oil-Free Daily Sensitive Skin Face Moisturizer
Eucerin Redness Relief Day Lotion Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
Best Body Lotions for Men
Nivea Men Maximum Hydration 3 in 1 Nourishing Lotion
Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion
CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion
Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Body Lotion
Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion
Jack Black Cool Moisture Body Lotion
Dove Shea Butter Lotion
Men Facial Moisturizers
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Face Moisturizer
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizing Cream with Squalane
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Soothing Repair Moisturizer
Bulldog Mens Skincare and Grooming Original Face Moisturizer
Jack Black Double-Duty Face Moisturizer SPF 20
Cetaphil Fragrance Free Daily Facial Moisturizer
Skin Care Products for Incontinence – Barriers and Protectants
BAZA Clear Skin Protectant Ointment
Sween 24 Superior Moisturizing Skin Protectant Cream
3M Cavilon Durable Barrier Cream
Boudreaux’s Butt Paste Rash Cream, Original
PeriFresh No-Rinse Perineal Cleanser
Aloe Vesta Skin Cleansing Foam
Theraworx Protect Advanced Hygiene & Barrier System