5 Tips to Encourage a Senior to Bathe Regularly

As the adult child of an aging parent, you may find yourself confronting issues that you likely never imagined. Your parent may still be living independently and doing pretty well overall. However, your mother or father may be doing some things that are unexpected. This may be because of at least some cognitive decline or another reason. For example, your parent may have gotten into a habit of not bathing as regularly as he or she used to or should. In this article, we present five tips on how you can encourage your senior parent to bathe more regularly. We also discuss and present a summary of reasons why your mother or father may not be bathing as regularly at this time.

The five primary tips to encourage your elderly parent to bathe more regularly are:

  • Encourage getting cleaned up for an event or activity
  • Give simple instructions
  • Hire bathing assistance
  • Use a therapeutic fib
  • Relax your hygiene standards

Reasons Why a Senior May Stop Bathing Regularly

There are a number of more commonplace reasons why a senior stops bathing regularly. These include:

  • Pain and discomfort when bathing
  • Stiffness and inability to undertake bathing effectively
  • Depression
  • The onset of cognitive issues
  • Dulling senses
  • Fear of getting injured while bathing
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of interest in maintaining appearance

It is crucial that you keep in mind that some of the reasons seniors stop bathing regularly can be associated with some type of underlying medical condition. For example, if your parent experiences pain when attempting to bathe, that very well could be a symptom of any number of different types of medical conditions, from cancer to osteoporosis to a broken bone to depression. Therefore, if you notice a sudden change in your parent’s bathing routines, you need to schedule an appointment with his or her doctor. 

Encourage Getting Cleaned Up for an Event or Activity

A practical way of encouraging your senior parent to bathe is to tie it in with an event or activity. Such an event or activity might be as simple as going to a restaurant for a meal. 

When it comes to using this approach, you don’t want to be demanding. Rather, you essentially are offering your parent a choice, with the decision being that of your mother or father. You would like your parent to join you at a restaurant, but it’s the kind of place that we have to clean up to dine. Make mention of the fact that you will be cleaning and dressing up yourself. 

Give Simple Instructions

If your parent has some cognitive or memory issues, providing your mother or father with simple instructions can be helpful in getting your parent to bathe. Returning to the tip about getting ready to dine at a restaurant, you could offer simple instructions like:

  • We need to get ready to go to the restaurant for dinner
  • First, we need to brush our teeth
  • Second, we need to shower (or take a bath) as part of getting ready
  • Third, when done with your shower (or bath), we’re going to get dressed up in one of your nice outfits
  • Fourth, we’ll then get in the car and drive to the restaurant
  • Fifth, we’ll order one of your favorite menu choices once we get there

You might even find it helpful to break down the actual bathing process in further steps. By folding bathing into other activities, the focus itself is not as directly on the element of taking a shower or bath, which might make it more palatable for your senior mom or dad.

Hire Bathing Assistance

Your parent may have legitimate reasons for cutting back on bathing. For example, your parent may have reached a juncture in his or her life where bathing is challenging or at which he or she fears being in the tub or shower because of the possibility of falling and sustaining an injury.

Your parent may have reached a juncture at which bathing assistance is necessary. If you are like some adult children or aging parents, you may not feel capable of performing this type of assistance for a host of reasons. You simply may not feel comfortable providing your parent with this type of help. 

You are not to be condemned for not feeling capable of bathing your parent. What you can do is explore bathing assistance options for your mother or father. 

For example, an in-home care aide might be a good path today. In-home caregiver services can not only assist your parent with bathing but with some other tasks of daily living as well. These might include dressing, meal preparation, laundry, and so forth.

Your parent might also want to consider the possibility of moving to an assisted living community. Assisted living is designed to optimize your parent’s independence while providing assistance with activities of daily living – like bathing – as needed.

Generally speaking, honesty really is the best policy. However, there are instances in which a proverbial white lie (a harmless misrepresentation) might be acceptable. One of these instances may be if you are encouraging your parent to bathe appropriately. 

We have elected to call this type of white lie a “therapeutic fib.” You can convey a simple and harmless fib to your parent to entice them to bathe. Not only is there no harm in such a minor fib, but it may also have the very real benefit of getting your parent to bathe appropriately. 

Relax Your Hygiene Standards

You may have hygiene standards that are different from your parent’s own. If your parent is competent and capable of making his or her own decisions, it really is not your place to impose your standards on your mother or father. For example, you may be a person who showers every day. Your parent who is not overly physically active may have elected not to bathe daily because he or she doesn’t feel like that is necessary. In fact, your parent very well may be right. Before starting on a pathway to encourage your parent to bathe regularly, you need to ensure that your definition of regular is appropriate and reasonable under the circumstances.