Activities of daily living are essential tasks, such as bathing, that some people can’t do on their own. These people may be aging, suffering from an illness, or recovering from an injury. They need help with bathing, and as a home health care provider, it’s your job to help. In this post, we’ll outline the best practices for home health care bathing.

Understanding Why a Client May Be Reluctant to Bathe

Bathing is an activity that is usually private. It’s a time people typically are alone. Needing help with a basic activity like bathing can make clients feel like they’re losing control. As clients wrestle with their perceived loss of control, they may resist bathing.

Lost Autonomy

Shifting from the ability to be able to independently care for oneself can be emotionally charged. This is a loss. Offering clients compassion and understanding as they grieve their loss of autonomy can be helpful if they are resistant to help with bathing.

Fear of Injury

Clients are already elderly, injured, or ill. At the same time, clients need to trust you to move them safely in and out of the bath. Because of their vulnerability and inability to catch themselves if they fall, clients may fear an injury in the bath or getting to or from the shower. Clients don’t often express this fear, but it may make them reluctant to bathe.

Cognitive Issues

When a client has a cognitive issue, such as dementia, their memory declines. Because of this, they may think they recently bathed. Clients with cognitive issues may not even understand what you’re trying to do and may feel uncomfortable with the entire process. Another issue is that clients with cognitive decline may not understand how essential bathing is for their health.


Many people are embarrassed to let a stranger see their naked body. Even though you’re bathing clients to help them, they may still feel embarrassed during a bath. This embarrassment results in the clients not wanting to go through the experience.


Sometimes the issue is as simple as the clients don’t love the feeling of bathing or getting out of the bath or shower. They often feel wet, cold, and uncomfortable. They may be reluctant to bathe if they don’t enjoy the experience. 

Overcoming a Client’s Reluctance to Bathe

Now that you understand why clients can be reluctant to bathe, you’ll be better able to overcome their resistance. After all, bathing is essential to keep your clients healthy and thriving. Even if they’re reluctant, you can work through it to make sure they’ll clean. 

Overcome the reluctance by:

  • Offering an Incentive. Maybe your client loves puzzles. Offering to do their puzzle with them after the bath offers an incentive, making them give you less resistance.
  • Try Pampering. Treating the experience as if it was a spa day for your client can help them feel more excited for it. Tell your client it’s their time to be pampered. Use a great scent and offer a hand or foot massage. After, help your client focus on how great they feel.

These tips can help you overcome a client’s reluctance to bathe, but providing a great bathing experience also helps them feel less hesitant.

Best Practices for Home Health Care Bathing

Like with every aspect of home health care, there are right and wrong ways to approach bathing. Approaching bathing correctly can help earn your client’s trust and lessen their hesitance around bathing in the future.

Tips for providing the best bathing experience possible:

  • Understand Bathing Preferences and Special Needs. While it may be as simple as preferring a loofah to a washcloth, catering to your client’s preferences can make the experience more enjoyable. It may be more serious like your client has extremely sensitive skin and needs a special type of soap. Understand the preferences and unique needs of your client.
  • Be Relaxed, Courteous, and Personable. Your demeanor throughout the entire bathing experience can be the difference between a terrified client and a relaxed one. Focus on being calm and kind throughout the entire experience, even if they are giving you a challenge. Never react in anger. 
  • Make Clients Comfortable with Proper Preparation. Seniors often feel cold, so throw some towels in the dryer to warm them up when they get out. Prep everything you need, such as washcloths, towels, wash basins, and soap. Prep the entire room before they enter. 
  • Explain Your Actions in Advance. Communicating well and explaining your actions can help clients feel less startled and unprepared for what’s happening. For example, you might say, “I’m going to wash your back now,” before you do it.
  • Use of Safety Bars and Chairs. Your clients may not realize they have bars or chairs to help them feel safer, so point them out and explain how to use them. This knowledge results in clients feeling safer throughout the entire bathing experience.
  • Bathe in Sections. To help clients feel less exposed, keep their body covered. Only uncover what’s necessary while bathing certain body parts. You can do this in sections.
  • Cover What’s Clean. After you wash an area, dry it and cover it. Again, this approach helps a client feel less exposed.
  • Allow the client to Wash Themselves. If your client can uncover and wash certain areas of their body, let them do it. It can help them feel more in control of their experience and establish more independence. 
  • Use Slow and Intentional Movements. To help clients feel safe throughout the experience, use slow and intentional movements when you lift and transfer them. 

By incorporating these best practices, you can provide the best experience possible, no matter what bathing method you choose.

Types of Bathing Methods 

You have options when it comes to bathing methods. What you choose will depend on your preferences and your client’s. If one method is challenging for one client, it may be worth your while to try a different bathing method. 

Common bathing methods include: 

  • Shower and Chair. You can put your clients in the shower if they have a chair to relax on while you clean them.
  • Traditional Bathtub. This method involves a full, warm bathtub. Your client will sit in the bathtub while you help them clean while their body remains wet. 
  • Basin and Sponge. For clients who don’t want to be wet, you’ll need two basins (one for soapy water, one for rinsing). You’ll use a washcloth to clean their body. 
  • Bed Bath. You can bathe clients with a basin and sponge in their beds. You’ll need a waterproof mat or sheet to keep their bed dry.

No matter your chosen method, you’re helping your clients stay healthy, look great and feel confident. 

Home Care Providers: Apply to Providence

We’re looking for home care providers who want to provide the best experience possible for their clients — and we think that’s you. If you live in Oklahoma, start your career with Providence Home Care today.

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