Sunday, 31 August 2014

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


Again I say (and I know I keep harping on about it) - you, as the mighty and magnificent Personal Carer that you are... need to ensure everything is ready BEFORE you escort your client into the bathroom for their shower.

And it's the little things that make all the difference.

Things like:  Is there a heater?

Is it on?

Do they want it on?

Perhaps they don’t.  So always ask before you go cranking it up and causing your client to fret about power bills or that the house might catch fire.

Remember you’re dealing with people who have lived a lot longer than you and they may well have experienced a tragic incident like their house burning down or a bomb being dropped on them in the war or similar catastrophic event from ye Olden Dayes.

You just never ever know what their background reading reads like… so resist being bossy and taking over their entire bathroom routine, no matter how silly or unnecessary their antics might seem to you. And trust me, never be tempted to judge your client because ultimately, it will reflect in the way you treat them.

And that's just not caring at all, is it.


Make sure your client uses the Hand Rails AT ALL TIMES.  Now is not the time for them to be a hero and to try and impress by showing off how fit and youthful they still are and that they don’t need rails thank you very much. Pride goeth before a fall and all that.

(Yes I'm talking to you, Mr Stan Sprightly!)

Also, make sure the  essential  Rubber Mat is placed correctly and FIRMLY inside on the shower floor for your client to stand on (and maybe one in front of the shower door as well, if there's a sparey.

Blimey, line them up the entire length of the hallway if you have them!

Rubber Mats are a fabulous invention and everyone, not just the old peeps, should be using them when it comes to shower time.  Afterall, they provide the ideal non-slip surface which is paramount when you're trying to stay safe in a tiled bathroom.

Also, ensure the area is clear of any potential tripping hazards like towels on the floor, bathroom scales, random slippers and the like.

Oh and for heaven's sake... make sure Rufus the over-excited Jack Russell, hasn't followed you in for a look, too!

Are we washing your hair today?
Would you like Conditioner with that?

Get all the towels, facecloths, brushes, loofahs etc that you will need so they are handy when required. And check if your client intends to wash their hair today and if so, put shampoo and conditioner paraphernalia within easy reach.

Some ladies like to instead pop on a shower cap, especially  if they have just had their hair set (purple rinse anyone?) or maybe just to keep from having to deal with wet hair after the shower ie: make more hard work.

The other, and possibly more realistic reason for a client to don a shower cap, is to protect very expensive Hearing Aids from getting wet.  Thankfully, you'll find that most will opt to remove these before they get into the shower because they are terrified of shelling out more big bucks on new ones if they wreck the current ones.

Make sure you place these tiny little contraptions somewhere secure when they are taken out, or you'll be in deep dark trouble with your client, make no mistake!

You will however, have the odd client who is prepared to risk leave their Hearing Aids in during a shower as it is important to them to be able to hear you. Of course, this will have all been ascertained during your in-depth discussions with them earlier.

Gee, what outstanding communication skills you have!

Do they use a stool or chair in the bathroom to sit and get undressed on? This is quite common although it depends how frail and dependent your client is.  Some older adults are still quite nimble and can peel away their robe, fling off their slippers and get themselves into the shower before you've even flicked on the light!

Others may need a lot of assistance and a guiding arm on their back or arm is just about compulsory, even if it is just a peace of mind thing - for YOU more than anything!

Better to be safe than sorry after all.

I used to have nightmares about elderly clients slipping on me - all the time.  Still do in fact... because basically it can mean the difference between a client staying in their own home or having to move into a Nursing Home as it is a dead giveaway that they can no longer cope.  And they know it.  All that water and plenty of tiled surfaces mean showers are the perfect place for a bloody good super-slippy kind of falling incident.

Oh yes, my friends… there’s a lot riding on this shower lark!   

Do they use a shower seat in the shower?  Hopefully, YES! These nifty removable contraptions can be transferred in to the shower stall for when Granny needs it and then easily whipped back out again for when the rest of the family showers.  A shower seat can save a hell of a lot of stress as there is massive potential for a fall otherwise.

There are also fold-down shower seats that attach permanently to the inside shower wall.  Either device means your elderly client can safely sit while you operate taps, hoses and the lathering of soap etc, without worrying about them doing any party tricks during the shower (like slipping over and breaking their hip for one).

Although again, there are exceptions.

For example, I have one lady client - Mrs Ann Gaspalot whose Emphysema is so bad that she needs her oxygen supply & mask to accompany her into the shower stall, just to have the strength to shower in the first place!  She prefers to stand and lean onto the rail in a hunched kind of position so her chest capacity is as wide open as possible and her lungs aren't compromised.

Whatever works best for your client is fine, as long as they’re happy - AND SAFE.

Oh and one last thing, showering an older person is also about keeping your client warm.  I find my Beloveds detest being cold and as they are usually frail and without a lot of meat on their bones, rest assured they will feel any (or all) potential draughts at shower time.  And I can guarantee you they will not hesitate in telling you so.

That goes for the bathroom door - as well as the actual door of the shower.

Were you born in a tent?



I’d like to think that most councils, Aged Care agencies or Elder Care organisations (whatever) do the decent thing and provide ample protective clothing for their care-workers for when they are performing Personal Care shower assistance duties.

Actually it's probably illegal not to these days..

Protect yourself by gloving up
Glove Up!

These would consist of:
  •  plastic or latex Gloves for infection control
  • a plastic Apron to keep your uniform (and you) dry
  • plastic elasticated Booties that slide over top of your shoes are handy too (although personally I find these little suckers more slippery than my shoes – can’t have the Carer falling now, can we). 
They’re all disposable and they come in boxed packs of 100… or is it a million?  (I can’t remember exactly – but it’s A LOT).  And they can be stashed conveniently in your car boot inside the perfectly-sized shopping basket you've ‘borrowed’ from the local supermarket which just happens to be ideal for keeping all your bits and bobs together so they don’t end up rolling around your car floor or boot and getting all yuk.


When it’s finally time to assist your client to their shower, if they have a wheeled walker or walking stick, then let them use it all the way up to the chair in the bathroom.  Once they are sitting down or holding onto a safety rail, you can then pop it out in the hallway so it’s not under your feet during the shower process.

By the way, when I say RAIL - I do not mean towel rail.  Towel rails are, by nature, loose and unstable and offer zero support to somebody who might lunge to grab at it with their entire body weight behind them.  I am always reprimanding my dear oldies whenever they start to reach for a towel rail…

“No!  Trust me, that flimsy towel rail won’t save you in an emergency, Mrs Windbottom!”

And then I waggle the flimsy towel rail up and down to prove my point and they glare at me like I am a big meanie.

You have to laugh!

Actually laughter, as we all know, can be a life saver in a lot of sticky situations – and it’s a pearler at shower time. And you will find that if you keep the atmosphere cheerful and encouraging (perhaps throw in the odd compliment too)… then things will flow a lot smoother and you will have your squeaky clean elderly client dressed and relaxing with a nice hot cuppa in their hand before they can say “Oh dear, I've misplaced the soap!”

(giggle, snort)


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