In my many years of caregiving for mymom, Our family quickly learned that bathing a senior–mobile or bed bound–required a good deal of planning beforehand. Well, what about simply sitting them in bathtubs or under the shower in chairs, you may ask? Wouldn’t that be more convenient? Sure–for some seniors.
However, sometimesbathtubs and showers are not always readily accessible or available for one reason or another. So, devising other well thought out alternatives must be pursued.
Let’s face it. One may not be fortunate enough to own a retrofitted bathroom for the sick and disabled. And if one can not afford that no rinse shampoo and body wash, then bathing your senior in bed with old fashioned soap and water will have to do. Many may find that the method which I explain below can be quite a sufficient way of bathing immobile and bed bound seniors. –whether using body wash or soap and water.
As my mother’s health and mobility diminished, her hospital bed, at home, became the more convenient place for my sister and I to bath her. Yes. We owed a Hoyer lift. And certainly we used it when we absolutely needed to use it. However, after using it a few times, we quickly decided that we would be more efficient if we had just bathed her on her hospital bed w/air mattress (great for preventing bedsores). So we did. But, we needed to plan it. We both shared in the bathing of our mother. Here’s what I did.
Before you start, first assemble all of the items which you will need for the bathing. No need to be running around looking for items in the middle of bathing. These are the items you most likely will need:
1) Bed Pads–enough single sheets to slide partially under her body to protect the bedsheets. Thick Terry towels will do as well. (Those bed pads can get expensive.)
2) Cotton rags for washing different parts of her body (4-5).
3) Large Terry towels (2). I use one to cover the body. The other one I use for drying.
4) Soaps (Cocoa Butter, Dove, Tea Tree, Herbal soaps or mild deodorant soap are other safe choices.
5) Witch Hazel (not too much) mixed in bath water. About 2.5-ounces per gal. of water. Make sure your senior’s skin can tolerate Witch Hazel. Test a small area first.
6) Front buttoned, zipped or snap buttoned house dress and a pair of cotton socks.
7) Adult Depends instead of regular underwear. Many seniors around their 80s are incontinent.
8) Good brand of lotion, diaper rash cream w/ zinc.
9) Use body powders w/cornstarch. I also used Desenex foot powder(mostly for feet and on some parts of body below waist. Sometimes, I mixed together these two powders.
I found it quite effective for preventing small fungal rashes from growing on different parts of body like the lower back, hips and thighs. If you do combine the two, don’t mix in too much Desenex. Again, I used the Desenex mostly for below waist areas. and feet.
10) Get two(2) 12-quart plastic water buckets.
After assembling all the items above (1-10),you are ready to start. So, get the two 12-quart buckets and fill up the two of them halfway with warm water. Add 2.5-ounces of Witch Hazel into both buckets of water. The addition of Witch Hazel will help soothe the skin, stop minor itching and keep down swelling.
Next, slide bed pads (or thick towels) partially under the body from head to toe just enough to protect the bed from spill water. Then with first bucket of water, soap up rag and begin to wash face and neck with a mild facial soap. Don’t forget to wash behind the ears. Tea tree soap or Dove with moisturizers are best.
Try not to dip your soapy face rag in your clean rinse water #2 bucket. You can rinse it out in the first bucket since you’re just starting. Next, set the rag to the side and pat dry her face and neck with dry towel. You will be using that same rinsed-out face rag for washing middle of body next.
After you finish washing/drying the face and neck, you are ready for middle of body. Get your rinsed out face rag and soap it up again with water from 1st bucket. Use a mild deodorant soap this time–for body. Begin washing. Don’t forget under the arms. And remember, don’t scrub too vigorously.
Sponges are nice too! But I wouldn’t use the same sponge to wash the entire body. Sponges are notorious for collecting dead skin off the body.
After you finish washing, start rinsing off body with same face rag. Continue to use first bucket for rinse water. After rinsing off middle body, discard rag in a plastic Walmart bag. You will not be using that rag again today. Get your towel and begin drying off middle body thoroughly .
Now you are ready to wash below the waist just above the ankles. Don’t wash feet just yet. Soap up your clean rag with water from bucket #2. Again, don’t scrub too harshly.
After you finish washing with soapy rag, you can throw it into plastic bag with first rag. You will also not be using that rag again today. Get a clean rag and use it to rinse off the middle body with water from bucket #2. Now that you are finished with rinsing , start drying.
Last, you are ready to wash feet. Get another clean rag. Continue to use second bucket of water to wash feet. While washing feet, do not spread apart the toes too widely when washing between them. Those areas can be very sensitive.
After washing, begin to dry. Examine the feet closely for any fungal growth, cracking or peeling. Note the overall healthy condition of feet. Record in your daily journal any unusual skin conditions. Tell your doctor about it on the next scheduled visit.
Remember. Make sure you try to keep covered the majority of your senior’s body with a large Terry towel during the washing process. Sometimes their bodies do not warm up as quickly as younger people with better circulation. Many seniors have a tendency to get chilly. You should also keep them covered up because everyone of us has dignity. That is very important to maintain. Never forget that.
When applying lotions, you can also mix in a few drops of Tea Tree oil with hypoallergenic type lotions. Applying Zinc Oxide barrier cream around buttocks and hip areas to help fight urine stains and/or fungal rashes is advisable. Rub well into skin. Don’t leave excessive lotions and cream on skin. This can attract bacteria.
It’s powder time! As mentioned above in item #9, you can mix together your cornstarch powder and Desenex if you like. Just don’t mix in too much Desenex when applying on body. The Desenex is mostly for feet and areas of the body that is subject to fungal rashes like the lower back area and lower hip. “Spot apply” it on visible rashes if you see them. I prefer to sprinkle the powder in my hand and then rub it on body. You have more control of how much powder is going on the body. You also provide the added benefit of massaging sore and stiff muscles.. This can be very therapeutic!
Now for the feet. Mix together a squirt of good foot lotion and modest dab of fungal cream between your hands. Rub this mix of lotion and cream well onto your senior’s feet. Again, the massaging is very beneficial. The rubbing motion will promote good circulation and the fungal cream will preventing athlete feet. Rub the mixture well into skln. After you finished, put on cotton socks to keep feet warm. And you are finished. Now that didn’t take too long now did it.
Nowwhen you comes to dressing, bedridden seniors who lie on their sides and are not able to move around well enough for you to put their arms into both sleeves the conventional ways, you can purchase those house dresses which button in the front from top to bottom.
Just take one arm of the sleeve and pull it up and over top arm. Next, simply allow the rest of dress to drape over body. It looks nice and you really can’t tell that only the top arm is in the sleeve. Certainly, it will be so much more convenient for you and her when you have to remove the dress should it become soiled with urine or feces–unless she is in a hospital gown. Always strive to make it easier on your senior and yourself.
ADVICE: Another type of clothing you might want to invest in–if you can find them–are the hospital gowns with he drawstrings in back. Those are easy to use as well. I have used them before on our mom. For those who choose to use them, they’re great.
But, I stopped using them on our mother. Why? My mindset was that non-hospital clothing gave our mother a more “at home” feeling. I just didn’t enjoy looking at our mom wearing hospital clothing all the time. It seemed to give her that “institutional look” . Besides, it seemed to convey bad Karma to me. My goal had been to present and to maintain as much similarity with normal “home environment” as much as possible even though she had been in the last stages of living. Wearing hospital clothing everyday gave me the impression of not appearing to be of healthy living . To me, wearing “everyday clothing” had been more conducive to good health and wellness. She still had been living her life.
Caregiving At Home For Seniors With Late Stage Dementia