How Often Should the Elderly Bathe and Wash their Hair?


For elderly people, bathing is especially essential to maintain good personal hygiene on a regular basis, but it can be difficult for them to get in and out of a shower or bath due to mobility and health issues.

It’s understandable that when elderly people become unable to look after themselves how they used to, they can feel embarrassed and reluctant to ask for help. Therefore, it is vital to take into consideration their safety as well as treating them gently and with compassion when discussing their changing needs.

Why is Bathing Important?

People mostly bathe to prevent body odor and to feel fresh. The underarms and groin have glands that secrete more sweat than the rest of the body, which, when mixed with bacteria on the skin’s surface, creates a strong odor. 

Wiping armpits, the groin area, genitals, feet, and any skin folds using warm washcloths also helps to reduce body odor between full baths. However, regular bathing is still essential.

Not only that, but bathing makes you feel good. Being able to keep clean gives you confidence and positivity.

How Often Should Elderly People Bathe?

When deciding on the regularity of bathing, the elderly person’s physical condition, requirements, and safety should be considered. To bathe once a week is seen as suitable by most healthcare providers.  

Taking a shower once or twice a week is required to avoid skin irritation and other hygiene-related problems. Skin tends to be drier and increasingly fragile as you age. Frequent bathing can, however, cause dry skin, itchy skin, and irritation.

When selecting a bathing schedule, it is important to take the specific health needs of the elderly person into account. For medical reasons, some people might need to bathe more often than others. For example, dementia patients need a regular day and time for bathing as routine is crucial to support their wellbeing.

Guide to Bathing Seniors

  • You should gather all your bath supplies and make sure the elderly person is warm and covered.
  • Use large towels that can be wrapped entirely around them, so they feel warm and also have privacy. 
  • Have the shampoo and soap ready before you tell them it’s time to have a bath.
  • Start from the top part of the body and move down each side of the body, carefully cleaning and washing each part.
  • To ensure the elderly person is warm and to and to give them as much privacy as possible, only uncover the part of the body being cleaned.
  • When bathing, gentle soaps are recommended, that will not sting the eyes or cause skin irritation.
  • You can apply lotions after bathing to avoid them getting dry skin. 
  • You can use rinse-free waterless cleansers, bathing wipes, and no-rinse shampoos, although they can leave a residue, so wipe with a smooth damp cloth after cleansing. 
  • Cleaning the groin area after using the toilet helps prevent urinary tract infections. This can be done by using wet wipes after visiting the bathroom. Another option is to install a Bidet toilet seat attachment, which is designed to optimally clean yourself with hot or cold water after using the toilet. They improve personal hygiene as well as protecting against hemorrhoids.

Methods of Bathing an Elderly Person

  1. Bed Bath – For bedridden older people, it is difficult to move them to the bathroom for a bath. Therefore, a bed bath becomes necessary to maintain their hygiene. There are some preparations to be made, like arranging a number of bath towels and washcloths, two bowls for clean water and one for rinsing before starting. A bed bath includes the following; A thorough wash, rinse, and dry pattern for the whole body.
  2. Bathroom Assistive Devices – For bathing inside the bathroom, assistance is needed for getting in and out of the tub or shower. This is essential for their safety. The placement of a bathroom grab bar is very beneficial. A grab bar helps them to steady themselves as they step in and out of the tub. Placement and height are set according to the elderly person measurements. The grab bar should be placed at a height that will allow them to hold it without having to reach too far up or down.
  3. Sponge Bathing – The most straightforward way of bathing seniors is showering or a soak in the bathtub. However, if they refuse or mobility is an issue, a sponge bath is a more suitable way of bathing them. For sponge bathing, the essential bathing items should be prepared in advance, for example, shampoo, soap, towels, etc. Ensure the elderly person is ready and comfortable before you start the process of the sponge bath. Their body needs to cleaned in sections, only uncover the part that you are washing. This guarantees that you are giving them privacy and keeping them warm at the same time.
  4. Transfer Bench – A transfer bench sits partway in the tub and partway out. The elderly person sits down on the outside and then slowly slides their body to the inside of the tub. This allows easier transfer into the bathtub and gives them confidence whilst seated.


  • Safety is the first priority. Wet surfaces are slippery, which can contribute to needless slips, trips, and falls.
  • The water temperature should be checked. Before they step into the shower, allow the water to run while you make the necessary water temperature adjustments.
  • Sudden movements and turns should be avoided.
  • Physical mobility should be taken into consideration.

Rushing or hastening should be avoided when bathing the elderly.

After-Bath Instructions

Due to skin dryness, some seniors may have to use a moisturizer after taking a bath or shower. They should also be given time to take a rest, as they may feel tired due to all the movement during bathing.

The elderly are very sensitive due to their various physical conditions. It is important to support our elderly loved ones to continue to carry out their daily activities. Bathing is very important to maintain an adequate level of hygiene. Regular bathing with compassion and taking into account safety measures can improve their quality of life.

1 thought on “How Often Should the Elderly Bathe and Wash their Hair?”

  1. I am a senior who has difficulty bathing; unfortunately, my family is too busy to help.
    Since an episode of vertigo a few months ago, it is now unsafe for me (living alone) to get in and out of the shower or bath. I still do but do so far less often.
    I am now ‘bathing’ out of the bathroom sink: I do separate body parts at a time. If I am too tired, I do different sections every day.
    I also ‘wash’ my hair out of the small bathroom sink, working different combs and brushes through my hair with only water, since there is no way to rinse completely or easily; therefore, I cannot use shampoo. I apply a little argan oil afterwards for conditioner.
    None of this is easy, and I miss the days when I could get into the shower and have it done in only twenty minutes, or when I could soak in the tub and get out and have it all done in a decent amount of time.
    It is less dignifying this way and incredibly time consuming – I have to sink bathe every single day – but I cannot stand not being fresh.
    I guess this is the price we pay for getting older :-). God is good and promises to take care of those who place their trust in Him through His Son, Jesus: I am counting on it. People might disappoint us, but we must trust that He won’t.

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