In Fairfield and Westchester Counties call 475-206-0652

What to Do If Your Elderly Loved One Doesn’t Want to Bathe

It can be heartbreaking to see your mom, who takes pride in her looks and always dresses to impress, suddenly stop doing those things. Now, you find her content to wear the same wrinkly clothes every day and perhaps even refusing to bathe.

You may feel helpless and as if the person your mother used to be is slipping away. Moreover, neglecting self-care and hygiene can jeopardize her health, putting her at risk of UTIs and skin infections and even adversely affecting her mental health.

With a little support and a lot of love, you can figure out why your loved one is acting this way and how you can help them.

Be Empathetic and Patient

It is important to try to look at things from your loved one’s perspective. Your dad might have chronic shoulder pain that makes it difficult to change clothes or clean those hard-to-reach areas, or he might have had a traumatic experience of slipping and hurting himself in the shower.

Seniors might also feel embarrassed to ask for help with showering since this could indicate a loss of independence. Try to approach the entire conversation carefully and be mindful of the language you use. While talking them through the bathroom experience, always say “we” instead of “you” to show them the experience isn’t something they have to do alone anymore.

Use Positive Reinforcement

When your parents seem disinclined to follow basic hygiene, arguing or reason won’t work. Instead, talk to them using short and simple sentences that focus on positive activities they can do after the shower.

Once you get the bathroom ready for them, go over to your loved one with a smile, make eye contact, and allow them to let you escort them to the bathroom. Talk to them about how you can do something they like after they’re done showering. It can be eating something delicious, watching a television show or anything else they enjoy. You can even set up a special event, like going out for dinner, as an incentive.

Reframe Your Idea of Hygiene

If you’re struggling to convince your loved one to bathe every day, remember they don’t actually have to. At a minimum, bathing twice a week is enough to avoid skin breakdown and infections. You can even refer to designated bath days as spa days to encourage them, especially if they enjoy being pampered. You can also throw in scented body wash and lotion to make the bath more enjoyable.

At times, getting into the bath can be triggering and stressful for your loved one. In this case, you can consider alternative solutions like a sponge bath. At the end of the day, you need to let go of your preconceived ideas of cleanliness and focus on figuring out the best option for your loved one based on the circumstances.

Make Bathing More Comfortable

A small addition like having a grab bar installed or using a rubber mat can make this experience feel a lot more comfortable and safer for your loved one. You can also consider installing a shower chair or bath lift chair.

Try installing a hand-held shower head instead of a regular one, as many people with dementia find the sound of a regular shower scary. With the hand-held shower head, you can control when and where the water touches them and warn them about it.

Hire a Bathing Assistant

Professional bath aides have the training necessary to help seniors of all cognitive and physical abilities shower while respecting their comfort and privacy. In fact, your parents might even feel less embarrassed with the help of a stranger.

Caring for a loved one who is slowly losing interest in everyday activities can be distressing, but don’t worry: Oasis Senior Advisors are here to help you. If you need help taking care of a senior family member, call us at 475.619.4123or 914.356.1901, or fill out this online form.

Oasis Senior Advisors


are here to help

Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

Contact Us Today