Bathing & Hygiene Top Tips: Convincing a Senior to Bathe


The forum is filled with people coming together to share valuable information. We’ve compiled experienced caregivers’ best tips and suggestions for persuading a loved one to take a shower or bath.

How to Convince a Loved One to Bathe

“For a period of time, we could only get Dad to shower if he was getting ready for church. My dad never showered in the mornings, so two or three times a week we would just tell him that church was the next day. Most of the time that would work. If there is an activity your loved one participates in that they will always (or almost always) shower for, try to use that to your advantage.” –Groundhog3

“The solution for us was to get in-home care. The very first time an aide came in, she had Mom all cleaned up (including dentures, which I was not successful getting her to clean) and wearing fresh clothing only an hour after they were introduced. It may not happen that quickly or smoothly for some, but a properly trained professional caregiver will usually be successful where family members are not.” –dejavuagain

“If you’re caring for your spouse, try showering with them. Coax them in and help them bathe, if needed. Use bathing items and products they like, such as favorite brands or scents.” –NavLady

“I direct my mom to the bathroom and stand in the doorway so she cannot ‘escape.’ I ask her to take her ‘night pants’ off and put them in the trash, and then I ask her to take her nightie off and hand it to me. I ask her to get in the walk-in handicapped shower. Sometimes she will go right in, but other times won’t. I stand at the doorway and tell her we need to freshen up so we can have breakfast, go outside, see our friends, or anything else that might interest her. I have stayed at the door for up to 25 minutes before! Patience is required since her language center is not working well, and she has difficulty comprehending things. We get it done first thing in the morning, because she is easier to encourage then.” –sonshineacres

“One idea we tried (and it worked) was to discuss going out to lunch/dinner. Dad would like the idea very much, but if he wanted to join us, he had to groom himself and bathe. So, about once a week we would treat him to a meal at a diner, IHOP or another local restaurant. It doesn’t have to be very expensive, and the change of scenery was nice for all of us.” –mollydolly332

“My husband doesn’t want to bathe, but I shave him and wash his face, which he likes. If I can get him in the shower once a week, I feel good. He says he isn’t doing anything to get dirty. I entice him by saying he hasn’t bathed in over a week. I get him to take the shower in the morning before he can get his clothes on. I also suggest that we take a shower together, and he likes that. He can wash himself and I do his back and put shampoo on his hair. Being in the shower also means I can make sure he doesn’t fall or burn himself with the water. He is always happy afterwards and usually rests, as it is exhausting for him.” –Isabella1

“When it came to bathing, I would just tell Mom that I needed her to take a bath when I was there to make sure she was clean. Even if she insisted she had already bathed, I would just tell her that in order for me to get the government assistance that we were receiving, I had to be sure she was bathing and she had to do it again so that I could be honest with them. Sometimes white lies are necessary.” –neveralone

“Call the doctor and get an order for a bath aide to come to your house several times a week. This is what I did when my dad stopped bathing.” –Eyerishlass

“My mother-in-law, who has since passed at age 84, only took sponge baths for the 17 years I knew her. She was not excessively dirty or smelly. Although I thought her approach was not enough, it’s actually better for you to not shower on a daily basis. My father-in-law with Alzheimer’s takes an assisted full shower twice a week and that seems to work okay for him. He’s not out running marathons, and we wet wipe his privates in between to avoid rashes and odors. I think you just have to do what’s best in each circumstance. Let go of preconceived notions of cleanliness and unrealistic expectations and focus on doing what’s best for your loved one.” –Heidigreene

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I just finished reading the many helpful suggestions for bathing and found them helpful and also gave me encouragement. I am caring of my 82 yr. old male friend. We are not married but rode the school bus together for years. He never married but did care for his blind diabetic mother for years. To overcome his modesty and his "man should be in charge attitude" I told him about watching my foreign born grandfather and how I used to watch him go thru his daily shave and while he washed himself with water in the sink. He would stand in front of sink looking into the mirror and shave himself with a straight razor. His cup with a brush had the shaving soap in it. He wore suspenders that he slipped off and they hung by his side. He would fill the sink with warm water - wet his shaving brush and apply the suds to his face. Then he would deftly use the straight razor to remove his beard. The fun part for me was watching him make faces in the mirror while he shaved. When he discovered it amused me - he did it just for me. We would laugh and I would try to make the same faces. Then he would wash under his arms and his upper torso. My father died when I was very young and he was the strong man in my life. He was a quiet man but we did share those moments. He would tell me that he felt Americans took too many baths and it wasn't good for you. Since he was born in the late 1800's his view of bathing was very different from what we have now.
When I assist my friend I tell him these stories and other ones to take his mind off the fact I am doing something he thinks he should be doing (but can't). In my case humor has been a way I have dealt with many of life's unpleasant moments. We laugh a lot. It is a great exercise - laughing!
Need to find a bath mat, pad with lumbar support, suction cups stadium chair seat, etc.- looking for something for mother with late alzheimers dementia,so she is able to sit comfortably in her bath tub to soak in her bubble bath. I already have many handicapped grab bars, grip handles, non-slip strips in her shower area and bath tub. She is unable to hold herself sitting up when soaking. I am having to stand behind her in the tub so she can lean back on my lower legs as a support while she soaks, so she does not slip down into the water. We do take a shower once a week with a shower chair and hand held shower head. She looks forward to "Soaking" in her bubble bath and aromatherapy oils. Any suggestions will be appreciated.
Ashley, thank you for putting all this great information into one article :)