How often should the elderly bathe?

5 answers | Last updated: Nov 30, 2016
Ssisheila asked...

What are the medical reasons an elderly person needs to bathe once or twice a week?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.


The reason people need to bathe mostly has to do with odor, and preventing it. The under arms (axilla) and groin (peri) areas of the body contain apocrine glands, which secrete thicker sweat than other sweat glands. This increased sweat mixes with bacteria on the skin surface, causing a strong odor, which some people find offensive.


When taking care of your parents bathing and cleansing needs, I recommend the following: Daily cleansing should include the face, peri area (groin), under the breasts, under skin folds, and the arm pits. Pericare or washing the privates may have to be done more frequently if your parent is incontinent and using diapers. Full body bathing can be done less often, as skin tends to become drier and more fragile as we age.  Frequent bathing can cause dry skin, itchy skin, and irritation. When bathing an older adult, I recommend using gentle soaps which won't sting the eyes and can double as shampoo. Lotions can be helpful after bathing to prevent dry skin.

Community Answers

Theoracle answered...

As I age I bathe more often because of the odor I notice many older adults have and I don't want to smell old, so I bathe or shower daily and use scented oils and perfumes to help me smell pleasant at all times.

Ksknana answered...

The chair in the shower has helped my husband accept bathing about twice a week. I encourage him to wash thoroughly, but he doesn't really. Should I be doing more to assist?

A fellow caregiver answered...

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. totally dodged the question of how often a loved one should get a full shower/bath with her answer of "less often"... than what? The nursing home my mom is in has a once-a-week policy and it is not enough. Her dermatoligist said her skin needs more hydration and recommended (3) 10 minute soaks/showers per week in addition to pericare and face washing. Makes more sense to me than this answer..

A fellow caregiver answered...

My Dad is blind and has only one hand and a colostomy bag. Being 86 I've mentioned many reasons why the bag isn't always emptied in the toilet. He's also active in the yard gardening. Twice a week? I don't think so.