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What’s Your Best Bathing Tip?

Tammy, one of our Facebook fans, would love your advice. She writes:

I simply cannot get my mom to take a bath, or shower, or even a sponge bath. Got any ideas? I think she feels unsteady on the bath bench. Maybe she doesn’t like water dripping down her body or on her face while I try wash her hair, even with waterless shampoo.

What suggestions can you offer Tammy? What works for you? Please share in our comments section, below.


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About Denise Brown

Avatar of Denise
I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues.


  1. Avatar of Denise


    I think bathing can be one of the hardest challenges in caregiving.

    One suggestion: Ask the doctor to write an order for a occupational therapist to make a home visit. If your mom feels unsafe on the bath bench, the therapist can offer ideas on other pieces of equipment that can help. You also can ask the doctor to order home health so that a visiting nurse and home health aide make a visit. Medicare may pay for a few visits, which will help you get some suggestions and advice from professionals.

    A few articles with tips:



  2. Avatar of Kathy

    Hi Tammy :)

    I don’t have much to offer in the way of tips but I can offer what we do for Hubby.
    When he could no longer step over into the tub for cleansing we chose a sink bath and he sat on his shower chair. We keep him covered until we are ready to bathe certain parts of his body and only expose those when ready.
    When he seemed unsteady on his shower chair, I used the portable toilet chair. It has arms on it and Hubby seemed a little more secure.

    As far as hair washing, we can just use a washcloth to wash Hubby’s short hair. I know that is more difficult with longer hair. Is it possible to take her to a beauty shop for hair washing? We did that when we cared for my husband’s mother.
    Sorry I’m not much help.

    Let us know what you find that works best for you :)

  3. My husband has a shower chair where he sits first and then we get his feet in, since he can’t step-in. He was getting where it was easy for him to say “no” to a shower. It was a turning into a big fight to get him to even consider one! I find if I offer him something in return he’s good about getting a shower. Such as, if you take your shower, you can go for a walk with me on your scooter, or if you take a shower, I’ll take you to the grocery store with me, or you can pick out what you’d like for dinner, or we’ll rent a movie and I’ll make you popcorn! Whatever works! But it works for me!

  4. Hi Tammy,
    My mother dreads her showers. In the past, I’ve asked her to tell me as she’s being bathed what scares her.

    For her, it is the fear of falling and that she doesn’t like feeling cold.

    We have areas I direct her to hold on to as she steps in – she has to step over about five inches to get to her bathseat.

    I’m always sure to have a small heater going at the other end of the bathroom so that she’s always warm.

    I seldom do her showers anymore; we have an aide that comes in. But, in moving through the fears with her, now I can better inform the aide with what makes my mother feel comfortable.

    Please keep us posted. Hope it gets easier for both of you.

  5. Hi Tammy,

    We may have something that you would like to try with your mom. Instead of rinsing with water, we offer disposable, non-rinse cleansing washcloths( ) and shampoo caps ( ) that will keep your mom fresh and clean. Maybe she will like this approach better. I hope this helps you out!

    Best regards,
    Mike Nygren from Sage Products

  6. SUCH A COMMON QUESTION! I asked it for a year and what seemed a lifetime! I don’t think it was fear that kept mom from the tub, I still have no idea what it was, much as I tried to figure it out! I believe its something all dementia patients go through, strange as that sounds. A year and a half later, its not even a problem! Why? I have NO IDEA! We get her in the tub EVERYDAY… Usually in a chair, but sometimes laying in the tub. She use to LOVE tub baths. She’d soak for an hour in hot water just relaxing. Wish that was the mama I had now.. But just happy she IS here! Way back then, the only thing that would get her in the tub was if I told her she had a doctor appt the next day. That usually did it after coaxing for an hour… Needless to say… I told her that every other day! Those little fibs we have to tell… That’s a very hard thing in itself to deal with initially… You don’t tell fibs to mama! LOL. That changed.. For her own good. Good luck!

  7. You can take a shower with her. Tell her “Mom lets shower together.”

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