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It’s Sandwich Generation Month! And that seems like the perfect time for one of my true “multigenerational” confessions! I love my grandkids! I am especially good about changing dirty or wet diapers. I learned a long time ago that you get extra time and great cuddles if you’re willing to change them anytime, anywhere! Know why? It’s rare that ANYONE else is volunteering to make those wonderfully “aromatic” changes! (So fellow grandparents – if your brand new grand-cherub has a ton of people dying to hold them and you are feeling left out, ALWAYS volunteer to change those diapers. Stinky or not, it’s well worth it for that sweet and cuddly baby-holding time.)
With all that being said, wouldn’t you think I’d be great at baths too? NOPE! I really do NOT like to give baths, especially to babies. It’s because I’m a bit of a klutz and just plain terrified I’ll drop a precious child. (Not that I ever have, but worry-wart me… 🙂 ) Once they can stand, and if I have a hand-held shower head, then I’m GREAT with showers.
Guess what! I was reading in my Mosby’s Textbook for Long-Term Care Nursing Assistants (an excellent resource for eldercaregivers) and realized I’m probably going to feel just as worried about giving baths to an elderly parents! Fortunately, I don’t have to do that right now. But in case any of you do, I thought I’d share some great tips. And won’t that be a handy resource for me, too, if and when I need them. 🙂
MULTIGENERATIONAL BATH TIPS
Just as with the grandkids, hand held shower heads are wonderful for helping a senior bathe safely. To be honest, I started using one about 20 years ago and think they are wonderful for ALL ages. But they are definitely a special boon for caregivers and carees. My favorite, if it’s just for me, is a Waterpic with several choices of sprays.
For grandkids and seniors, though, I prefer the shower head like the Moen hand held shower head in the photo. It only has a couple of choices for spray strength but it has an on-off button that is easy to press. That’s great for bathing others. You spray their body, then click the button to turn off the water while you suds them up. When you are ready to rinse them off, just press the button again to turn the water back on. The temperature stays the same and it’s much easier than turning everything off at the handles.
Contrary to popular opinion, a daily bath is NOT an absolute necessity. The very old, the very young, and the in-between with skin issues can easily go 2-3 days or more without a bath and it can be much better for their skin. Of course, we need to help them clean up if they have an accidental mess while eating or with bathroom duties. But even then, a partial bath can be perfectly OK.
And when we do bathe them, it’s probably best to skip the bar soap. I, personally, gave that up decades ago. My husband and I both had very dry skin. We used to use Phisoderm till we could no longer buy it. Eventually we found that Caress and Oil of Olay body washes were both gentle enough to use without drying or irritating our skin. For those grandkids with skin allergies, I love Johnson and Johnson baby wash and baby shampoo – the plain original ones. Unlike many other products, including Johnson and Johnson bedtime wash, they have never caused any rashes or hives. Another very gentle body wash, Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Wash, has been my mom’s favorite for years.
For bed baths, or those days when they want to bathe – without actually taking a bath – we all highly recommend the No-Rinse products. We learned about them from the hospice nurses when my senior dad was so ill, and we always keep some on hand.
Whatever soap you use, make sure you rinse thoroughly (other than the no-rinse 🙂 ). According to the nursing assistant textbook I have, “Dry skin occurs with aging. Soap also dries the skin. Dry skin is easily damaged…thorough rinsing is needed when using soap.”
Be cautious about using bath oils and bubble bath in the bathtub. As my family has learned over the years, the bubble bath can sometimes cause rashes, while the oil can make everything very slippery and very dangerous for grandkids and aging parents alike. This is especially important for our senior parents as falls can be so dangerous for the elderly.
Many people love to use powder after a bath. But if your aging parent has any kind of respiratory disorder, powder is definitely not recommended!
Many in the Sandwich Generation are caring for elderly parents with dementia. My nursing assistant textbook has some excellent tips specifically for helping them with baths. I especially appreciate the way it takes each duty and gives you in-depth step-by-step detailed instructions.
As you probably know, if you are in the throes of caregiving for a parent with dementia, bathing can be a very scary experience for them. One suggestion my book makes is to be proactive by picking the times they are the most calm, playing soft music, and providing a shower chair or bench so they can sit comfortably through most of the process.
Also, make sure they try to go to the bathroom before bathing, as a bath can stimulate them to have to go and you don’t want that to happen while they are in the tub. When you are bathing them, give them something like a sponge or wash cloth to hold so they can at least feel like they are able to help.
It’s so vital that we also remember their needs for privacy, even if they can’t verbalize that. Keeping a towel handy to cover them when possible can be a big help.
If they just can’t handle a regular bath or shower, the no-rinse products and a bed bath can be very helpful, as can a towel bath.
Bathing is definitely one of the tougher of the day-to-day Sandwich Generation issues for me. So any helpful tips make me a happy camper. And YES! If you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear them as well. And don’t forget…