What’s the best way to sponge bathe elderly patients?

Asked by

Answers 1 to 5 of 5
The elderly gentleman I assist is a retired colonel from the US Air Force. To help preserve his sense of privacy, I always approach him from behind (he is able to stand in the shower holding on to rails, or sit on a shower bench.) When he stands, I wrap a towel around him from behind, to assist him in stepping out of the shower.
I have found a lot of helpful videos on YouTube regarding elderly care - you may find one on bathing. Also - the elderly woman I care for has been doing a poor job of scrubbing her own head (arthritic fingers) so I lather her up and give her a good scrub. She showes seated on the shower bench, with minimal assistance. I wrap her in two hot towels fresh from the dryer each day. The elderly get so cold so easily, this comforts and pampers her. She's more relaxed about being exposed, so there is not the same privacy issue. She does love the large, warm, towels wrapped around her and put on her wet head! I also use that time to give her arthritic shoulders a rub through the warm towels.
Something to really watch for is that they are dry before putting on the 'Depends' type undergarments. Chafing and fungus are very real risks.
Top Answer
Bathing can make us all nuts! My suggestion:
Will just washing the stinky parts every day do the trick? Sometimes a full fledged bath is too overwhelming (too cold, fear of falling, chronic pain, embarrassment, etc) Some individuals with dementia experience the sensation of being wet as painful, washed as being raped, etc. I am the queen of the "wipe" - meaning I use baby wipes (or adult wipes), run them under hot water for a split second (gets some of the soap out and warms them up) and away we wipe! No rinsing necessary either! Also, only undress the part of the body being washed and redress immediately. Dignity, comfort and clean! I have found this to work very well with my demented clients as well as many other seniors over the years.
All of the above ideas are fantastic....yep some don't like baths...I know my mom's caregiver has a hard time with giving my mom one everyday...my mom says she tricks her..lol. Yeah trick you into being clean...it's amazing of how they change when they get old and they don't like the bathing thing anymore. I have a shower seat in the bathtub for my mom and a handrail I attached to the side of the tub. The tub also has a shower handle sprayer for rinsing off. Wetwipes are also a plus indeed for those quick moments of messes or big messes that need to be wiped away before further cleaning. Also I have found my mom was getting rashes as well from the Depends and had to have a doc prescribed cream to help stop it. So she does not like to wear them anymore due to that. They do chafe!!! I told my mom's caregiver to soak that part of the undies with some lotion..but she never tried to do it.
My patients were bed ridden. I just washed every body part with warm water and soap. then rinsed with a watered down washcloth and then dried. One at a time all 3.,so they don't chill. As far as private parts I always made sure they were laying down and lifted the sheet up from the bottom. Sure, they don't like it but, I am all ready to tell them a story and usually it is about the old days. They love to discuss the good old days. The drug stores carry a shampoo cap you micro wave. All in one. My mother loved it because it was so warm.... I hoped I helped....
My dad still has a little mobility even though he is paralyzed on one side. He can transfer to the commode, but not to the shower, so I do sponge baths. I do a 3 step process. Partly because it's easier on him, but also partly because it helps me out too - it gives me time to look over him and make sure nothing ordinary going on like sores or scratches or breaks or bruises.
The first and second part of my dad's sponge bath goes on when he sits on the commode. I installed a toilet-bidet on my toilet that sprays and cleans his bottom. He couldn't clean himself well with toilet paper, but he can use the bidet. When he want's to get cleaned up, he usually tells me and sits on the toilet. He undresses from there. First he uses the bidet to clean his bottom. Second, while he is washing his bottom, I wash his upper torso and his front private parts. I use a no-rinse soap and shampoo sometimes and then regular soap and shampoo rinsed off with a spray bottle filled with warm water at other times. It seems like it would get messy, but I wrap extra long towel around his waist and that catches the water. Then he gets dressed from the toilet too.
The third part of his sponge bath occurs when I help him put on his socks and shoes. He has to wear compression socks that have to be changed every day and they are too difficult for him to put on himself. So after his upper torso is cleaned, we go into his room and I take off his socks and wash his legs and feet. He likes to soak his feet in an electric foot soaker once or twice a week - if he does this, then he usually washes his legs on his own. Then I put on clean socks when he or I am done.

The whole process we worked out takes about 30 minutes if that. I don't think there are any instructions that can be given, as every one has different needs and different ways that work for them. I guess the best advice for sponge bathing would be to try out different products like no-soaps and shampoos vs. regular ones and see what works best for you and your loved one. Also try different ways like sponge bathing from shower chairs or the commode or in bed to see what works. Or try "spot bathing" like I do where you bath only certain parts at a time. Hope this helps!

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support