Elderly Hygiene

Elderly Hygiene Tips: Convincing a senior to Bathe


For most caregivers, bath time is such a struggle with their seniors, and even much of a struggle if their loved ones have other conditions. Naturally, as people age, they start to dislike taking showers or be reluctant to bathe. It becomes something they no longer look forward to. But the health implications of not taking a shower are too costly. They could develop infections and skin conditions that may be too complicated to treat so however hard it is, you have to make them take a bath.


Reasons why seniors refuse to take a bathe

seniors refuse to take a bathe

There are various reasons why the elderly avoid showering. Seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia may fear water and hence refuse to bathe. They may be scared of the sound of running water or seeing water running on their bodies. They may also have hallucinations of them drowning or being sucked by the water draining hole. All these make them fear the bathroom and the bathing altogether. Most seniors experience pain while bending and standing and therefore find showering very tedious, challenging, and exhausting. They tend to associate bathing with pain. Having a handicap accessible bathroom and showering aids is the solution to their mobility challenges.

Some find cold or warm water uncomfortable while others fear to get into accidents in the bathroom like slipping and falling. Some seniors will just be stubborn and refuse to bath out of defiance. They feel their personal hygiene should be within their control and so they get to decide whether and when to shower. By you telling them to shower they feel as though you are taking their control away from them.

Memory loss is another reason why seniors may refuse to bathe. They either totally forget to take a bath or they can’t remember when they last did so that they can plan for another. If you ask them they will genuinely respond that they just had a bath or they bathed just recently. All these are valid reasons that could get anyone not only seniors to refuse to take a shower. However, with little tips and tricks, convincing them to bath should be easy.


Tips to convince a senior to take a bathe

take a bathe

The following tips will help you convince your elderly parents to shower and make caregiving easier for you.



Talking to them about it helps you understand why they refuse to bathe. It is important to first know the reason before convincing them. Talk to them about showering in a gentle and positive way. Avoid nagging and be polite. Make them understand why it is important they take a shower and what would happen if they don’t. Try and paint a very vivid picture of the two scenarios, this will make them fully understand the need to bathe.


Consult the doctor

The senior doctor can be very helpful in convincing your loved one to shower. Since the doctor understands the senior, he can determine the reason for the behavior and guide you on how to convince your parent to bathe. The elderly parent is also more likely to take the doctor’s advice more seriously.


Use the right shower equipment and products

Make bathing fun and comfortable by investing in equipment such as bath lift chairs, handheld showerheads, and shower chairs. Most elderly people find bathing an exhausting task especially due to their back and knee problems that make bending and standing difficult. These types of equipment will make them feel safer, more comfortable and as a result, they will be more willing to bathe. Also, buying products that they love such as scented body wash will make bathing enjoyable.


Get in-home care

A professional caregiver is well trained on how to handle the elderly and on ways to get them to stay clean. Seniors with dementia need special care and a lot of attention. A professional caregiver can properly handle an elderly with dementia and ensure that they shower regularly. Seniors are also more compliant with medical professionals and will, therefore, get along with a professional caregiver.


Bring in friends and family

Inviting friends and family over or asking them to take a senior out will encourage him/her to get in the shower and clean up. Elderly parents are usually excited and eager to go out and to meet up with friends and will hence quickly bathe whenever you invite friends to come and spend time with him/her.


Be patient and respect the senior’s privacy

Being a caregiver requires patience. Most elderly people like to do things at their pace and time. When convincing your elderly parent to shower, it is important that you allow them to do it at their own time. Avoid rushing them to do things and offer them options instead of instructions. For example, ask them if they will shower before or after having lunch. Also, respect your elderly parent’s privacy and make them feel comfortable. Allow them to shower while clothed if it makes them comfortable and cover them with a robe when helping them shower. Do not help the senior bathe if they are uncomfortable with it.


Have a routine

Create a routine and stick to it, this will end the bathing fights in the long term. For example, if a senior prefers bathing in the morning or before bed, ensure that they shower at that exact time every day. That way they will be wired to automatically prepare themselves for a bath when its time. Routine is important especially for those with dementia. Honoring routine is not only helpful to the elderly but also to the caregiver.


Warm the bathroom for more comfort

If your loved one dreads taking a bath because they don’t want to feel cold, then the only way to convince them to bathe is to make the bathroom warm enough. Turn on the heater to warm it at least 10 minutes before they enter the bathroom.  Also, cover them up with a heavy towel or even two immediately after the bath so that they don’t feel cold.


Have everything ready before the bath

Before you request them to take a bath, start by gathering everything you need for the bath- towels, shower shampoo, washcloths, and sponges. As they see you preparing for their bath, they also start preparing themselves mentally for a bath. Also, having everything ready will make the bathing process faster and more efficient.



Getting seniors to bathe can be tedious but hygiene is crucial for the elderly. It is therefore important to first understand why they refuse to bathe. From there, address their concerns by talking to them politely to make them understand why it’s healthy for them to take a bath regularly. Well, some will understand and corporate while others may need you to find tactful ways to convince them more. The tips we’ve shared are most certainly going to convince your loved one and eventually make bathtime fun and easy. If all still doesn’t go well, exercise patience as you seek help from friends, family, and medical professionals. You could also get a professional caregiver just for the bathing time. It may be costly but worth it.

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