Bathing Your Parent

6 Ways to Make Bathing Your Parent More Comfortable

There's no getting around the inherent awkwardness of giving your mom or dad a bath -- you feel it and so do they. Try these six ideas to up the comfort level:

Turn on some music or turn up the TV.

The calming effect of music is well known -- and during bath time is no exception. Prop a battery-operated radio or CD player nearby, and play your mom's or dad's favorite tunes. If your parent finds the sound of the TV relaxing, try raising the volume down the hall.

Turn up the heat.

Before you even start to fill the tub, make sure the bathroom is pleasantly warm. Remember, older people tend to get cold easily, so you'll want the room temperature warmer than you'd prefer for yourself.

Have conversations about anything but bathing.

There's nothing quite like chatting to take one's mind away from the task at hand. Bathing is a great time to share family gossip, catch up on grandkids, or talk politics or sports. Your parent will likely be well aware of what you're up to, but it still helps to take the focus off being bathed by your own kid.

Use your parent's favorite products.

If your mom or dad has a preferred brand of soap, shampoo, or lotion (even if it's one you're not wild about), use it. Your parent will find comfort and reassurance in the familiar smell, look, and texture.

Keep your parent covered up.

Believe it or not, you can bathe your parent even when she's covered in towels. Use water and soap directly on the towel and massage it in -- or lift the towel only as needed to reach the skin underneath. Just make sure to replace wet towels with dry ones as soon as you're done so your parent doesn't get cold.

Don't force a bath if your parent doesn't want one.

If, for whatever reason, this isn't a good day for a bath -- for you or your parent -- do as much cleaning up as you can, but don't force it and don't worry. Tomorrow may be a better day -- and that's fine. If every day is a bad bath day and bathing turns into a fight or hassle, talk to your parent's medical team to come up with a plan.

Kate Rauch

Kate Rauch has spent more than two decades writing about health for websites and print media, including WebMD, Drugstore, the Washington Post health section, and Newsday, as well as HMOs such as Kaiser Permanente (in the San Francisco Bay Area) and Group Health (in Seattle). See full bio