When you take on the care of another person, you will be faced with many jobs, some easier than others. It isn’t easy to reverse the role of mother or father and child, but that is what happens when you are caregiving. You take on the role of the mother and care for your mother as if she were a child again. One of the jobs you will be faced with is giving your loved one a bath.
Chances are when a loved one can no longer bathe, you will have to step in and bathe them. There are a few things you will want to remember to do before you start a bed bath.
Warm the room. Someone who is confined to bed needs more warmth than you or I. Use a space heater or turn up the thermostat. It’s a good idea to warm a blanket in the dryer to place over the patient before you begin. Place another blanket in the dryer to have nice and warm for when you are finished.
Lay out all the needed supplies: a basin filled with hot water, wash cloth, mild soap, talcum powder, and of course, clean clothes for the patient. Be sure the water is hot, as it will cool quickly during the bath. You may have to add hot water as it cools. Be sure to change the water if it becomes too soapy.
Now for the bath. Help the patient remove their clothing. Place a warm cotton blanket under the patient and over the pillow, removing any unneeded pillows. Place towels or a blanket under the patient to catch any moisture as you bathe them. Place the warm blanket over the patient to keep them comfortable. You will be moving this blanket to expose the area that you are bathing. Using a blanket not only keeps the patient warm, but also preserves their dignity. You will also need a couple of towels for drying the skin as you proceed. Make sure the towels are soft so that you don’t damage the skin.
Start with the face. Wash, rinse and dry the face, moving from the nose out to the hairline, making an S motion around the mouth. Wash, rinse, and dry the neck and ears with attention to all the folds of skin. Be sure the soap is rinsed off thoroughly, because it has a drying effect on the skin.
Now move gently down to the torso. Pull the blanket down to the waist and cover the chest with a towel. Soap, rinse and dry the patients chest and the sides of the chest under the towel, using long, firm but gentle strokes. Be sure to wash under the breasts. As you cleanse each portion of the body, observe the condition of the skin for any problem areas. Cover it quickly with the warm blanket. Move the towel to expose the shoulder and one arm, bathe that portion of the body, then cover it quickly, going on to the other side. Take the basin of water and carefully place the patient’s hand in the warm water and wash it. Dry the hand and be sure to get between the fingers. When you are finished with the torso, carefully roll the patient on their side to wash the back. Gently dry the back with a towel before returning the patient to their back.
Then fold the towel up, exposing the lower part of the body, and begin washing the legs and the feet. Bend the patient’s leg and place the foot in the basin of water. Take particular care of the toes and between the toes. Dry them carefully, rubbing gently to remove any dead skin. Talk to the patient while you are bathing them, to keep them comfortable. Finish by washing the private parts (they may want to wash themselves). It is important to keep the genitals clean to prevent soreness or infection, especially if your patient is a man and he hasn’t been circumcised. It is important to pull the foreskin back to wash the penis completely, getting into all the folds and pulling the foreskin back into place when you are finished.
If your patient is bedridden, sprinkle baby powder on their body and smooth it on the back with a gentle massage. It will help to eliminate friction that could lead to bedsores, and the gentle massage will help them relax.
If you see pressure points where the skin is becoming red, give these areas special care. The circulation in these areas needs stimulation. Massage gently around the red spots, kneading with the heel of the hand or the tips of the fingers to stimulate circulation. Rub around rather than on the reddened areas to lessen the danger of causing breaks in the skin. If left untreated, they could lead to painful bedsores. One caregiver told me to apply Maalox to bedsores. She said it worked beautifully.