One-half of nursing home residents are distressed during bathing. The resident may feel embarrassed, cold, uncomfortable, in pain, or feel they have no privacy. Ninety percent of residents require some assistance with bathing. The experience should be made pleasurable. It is important to know the person, have good communication, a flexible schedule and a variety of techniques. There are no regulations dictating a resident has to have a shower or a tub bath or the number of times per week. Ombudsmen often assist residents having unpleasant bathing experiences. Many residents may response better if the experience is referred to as a “wash off” as opposed to a shower or bath. The appearance of the room or soothing music may make a difference also. If the resident is in pain, pain medication given prior to the bath may increase comfort.

Shower chairs may be uncomfortable and cold. The seat may be padded with washcloths, towels, or a child potty seat insert. The bars may be padded with pipe insulation or foam. It is important to keep the resident warm and covered. The room should also be kept warm. Communication by staff with each step helps to ease anxiety and conversation is a good distracter. Consistent staff assignments may aide in building trust. The staff and the resident should pick the best time for the bath. No rinse soap may also be used to decrease dry skin or ease those with a fear of water. Adding color to the water, turning the jets off, or offering a bubble bath may help as well.

Hair washing is unpleasant for many. It is best performed at the end of the shower or bath. Pouring water over the head may make the resident feel as if he or she is drowning. Hair should be washed when it looks dirty. People produce fewer oils with age. A shampoo cap that uses a no rinse shampoo is also an option.

For more information on this topic or other topics related to the care of the elderly, contact Ombudsman Supervisors Michelle Goins or Sherra Belk at 405-273-6410 or 1-800-375-8255. The Ombudsman Supervisors are available to speak to your group or organization upon request.