Friday, 29 August 2014

How to Shower an Elderly Person - Preparation: The First Bit

SHOWER ASSISTANCE #1 – Safety stuff

Assisting an elderly person to shower is a component of Personal Care that every Home & Community Aged-Care worker needs to feel comfortable doing in order to be superbly successful at it.  It requires not only fundamental knowledge and training, but add to that a large dose of common sense, an enormous dollop of empathy and you've got a carer who not only understands the process – but they might CARE as well.

Basically, if you don’t care about your client… it will show.

It’s also all about SAFETY

And as trained care-workers you have a Duty of Care obligation to keep your client safe at all times.  You’ll find this ‘Duty of Care’ phrase bandied around quite a bit in Aged-Care circles but it’s there to hopefully prevent negligence and to protect the rights of your client - and ultimately, you.

 And although it can be complex to understand, basically it means that if you don’t follow your company’s procedures and policies, you could end up being taken to court and losing your job, if… (and I’m only saying IF) something terrible happens.

What with every bathroom being so different and every client being such an individual, with their own specific circumstances and needs (not to mention their random quirky bits), carer’s have quite the responsibility to stay aware and to adapt to each situation as professionally as they can, while at the same time trying to maintain ultimate client contentment.

In other words – DON’T LET THEM FALL!

Showering your elderly client
Water, water every where...


Always TALK to your client.  And then LISTEN to what they tell you.  If you as their personal carer, open up the lines of communication and show yourself to be friendly and approachable (as well as gushing with confidence galore), you’ll find they will relax and trust in you to take good care of them.

Showers can be very vulnerable places so the last thing you need is a wobbly naked pensioner to feel frightened in their own bathroom.  So get chatting, relieve the awkwardness and ask them what they like and what they don’t like; are they going out today; isn't the weather dreadful lately (good old WEATHER discussions always break the ice and move things into a more casual and sociable footing).

Also, talk to your client’s spouse or live-in relative (if there is one) too, as they will offer valuable information about your clients condition and may have hints or suggestions that will keep everyone satisfied and therefore make your job that much easier.


Remember, your elderly client still lives at home so theoretically, they should be quite capable of doing a lot of the effort themselves.  Showering however, can be hard work to those who are frail, may have just come home from a stint in hospital, undergone recent surgery or be returning to normal life after an injury of some sort.  Your job is to assist them by encouraging independence, offering plenty of support and to just guide them as is necessary at the time of your visit. 

Helping edlerly to shower



But before you trundle your dear old lovely off to the perils of the bathroom – you must first read the Care-Plan!  

It is absolutely crucial to familiarise yourself with any health concerns or medical issues your client has BEFORE you attempt to shower them.  And the Care Plan contains the important paperwork that holds all the juicy info you could ever need – and then some!  Not only will reading the CP dictate how you treat your client, but it will also offer insight on how much and what kind of assistance you will need to provide for them.

For example, if your elderly client has had a stroke they will likely not have full use of one side of their body.  Consequently this means you need to alter the way you dress and undress them.  If you hadn't read the notes in the CP you would not have known this and off you would charge... headlong into an embarrassing and potentially dangerous situation that leaves your client feeling so anxious and upset that they ring your employer later on, to tell on you.


It’s important to note too, that even though you've assisted Mrs Wilma Waterduck with her shower every Tuesday for the last two years, you would still need to regularly check that the notes in the Care Plan have not since been updated, say, by the District Nurse or an official assessment officer from somewhere.

A change in the client’s health status is something a personal carer needs to be aware of and usually the client won’t think to tell you - so you need to be all over it, baby


Be friendly and chipper by all means, but be confident in your own abilities as well (even if you are not).  It must be hard enough having some stranger standing in your bathroom seeing you starkers at the best of times… so imagine how frightening it would be to have a carer who is hesitant and unsure of procedure coming at you with latex gloves on… EEEK!

Again, in my experience, just talking to your client is the best way to relieve any awkwardness and it shows that you understand and are considerate of their feelings (ie: you care).

Offer your client the respect and dignity you would hope for if it was YOU getting the once-over.

And don’t worry, they will soon let you know if you are rubbing their back too hard or they have soap in their wotsit!


As part of a personal carer’s shower preparation, you need to confirm if fresh clothes are already laid out or set aside somewhere. 

Will they be getting undressed/dressed in the bedroom or in the bathroom? 

Make sure you clarify beforehand so there is no unnecessary time-wasting or leaving your client to wait and get all cold and grumpy while you fluff round finding bra and underpants somewhere in the bedroom dresser… third drawer down… on the right... next to the bed I think she said…OH MY GOD WHERE???

Not good enough - get organised first!


A lot of clients prefer ‘going’ just before a shower (who doesn't) and usually will have done this in anticipation of your arrival.  Having said that, there is still plenty of scope for those one-off toileting accidents once your client is in the shower, so remember to be professional (as opposed to horrified) and don’t make a fuss.

After all, if you're going to have an accident... it’s the best place to have it!


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