What are some tips for shampooing wheelchair patients?

4 answers | Last updated: Aug 17, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

I need imput on nursing home hair care.If anyone has any imput on shampooing wheelchair patients please let me know.

Expert Answers

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

Usually, if someone lives in a nursing home, they are showered a couple times a week, which would include a shampoo. If a patient is not able to walk or stand, they are usually showered in a shower chair. The most popular shower chair is made of plastic, has wheels and handles (arms), with a seat that looks like a commode seat. This chair can be rolled into the shower easily. If a shower chair is not available, a shower seat can be used. This is a stationary seat that can be sat in a tub. With this option, the wheelchair bound person must be transferred on to the seat in the shower area, which can be challenging. These types of products are available in medical supply stores and on the internet, so you can pick the type of chair that is right for your patient.

If you want to wash someone's hair while they are in a wheelchair, this is much more difficult. If the wheelchair back reclines, then you can recline the person all the way down, with their neck and head hanging over a sink, and wash the hair that way. If they cannot recline, I cannot see how you could wash their hair in the chair without getting them (and you) soaking wet. If you absolutely must wash their hair in the wheelchair, you can try to buy dry shampoos, which are usually sprayed in the hair to absorb excess oil. If you really want to shampoo them, I would leave them in their bed, hang their head over the side of the bed (with a pan or bucket on the floor underneath their head), and pour water with a cup to wash them that way. Keep in mind that this is very messy and the bed can get wet, so be careful. You can put plastic underneath their head to try to protect the bed as much as possible. Hope this helps!

Community Answers

Portableshampoobowl. answered...

Another way to shampoo someone's hair if they are in a wheel chair is to use the PORTABLE SHAMPOO BOWL by JK Innovative Designs. The bowl sits on top of your kitchen sink. All you do is roll the wheel chair up to the counter and they have easy access to a salon style shampoo. They sit at a more upright position as to NOT put pressure on the artery of the neck. No more mess. They are comfortable, and they do not get wet!! Here is a link to the website, portableshampoobowl.com. Jeannette LaChance

In home health aide answered...

I do in home health. Yeah its a little difficult and may be a little messy, but they feel so much better when they get their hair washed.

I use either a garbage can or a bath basin to catch the water. I put down a few water absorbent pads on the floor and 1 or 2 hanging on the back of the wheelchair so that doesn't get wet. With a towel over their shoulders.

Then fill up a bath basin with water and wet their head with a cup, while leading the water to drain in the garbage can (or bath basin). Wash well and I like to use the other bath basin to rinse (because it feels more like a shower) while guiding it into what you use to catch the water.

Hair by mary answered...

I own a salon in a medical care facility. Ninety percent of my clients are in wheelchairs. They all get a shampoo unless it was their bath day. Mostly they are washed at the sink. I have mastered how to wash without getting them wet or the floor. I use many layers. One bath towl as a cape then a waterproof cape one way then a second one the other way. Then a small bib-style cape that is fastened around neck funneling water backward into the shampoo bowl. With chair as close as can get to sink (if client can slouch a little in chair that is helpful and look up toward ceiling I can use a light spray water pressure (its all about the low water pressure!) to wet the hair and the rest is as usual. Some clients are hunched over, often times sleeping and/or in a high back gerry chair nearly impossible to do at sink, therefore those clients receive a warm towel shampoo. Its just as wonderful for them as it is warm fresh water and shampoo lather with towel, spray bottle and shampoo rinsing several times with a wet towel process. If a client is in bed, I use the towel method with the no rinse liquid shampoo saturated into the wet and warmed rolled up hand towel inside a processing cap. The wet towel can be warmed inside microwave and kept warm in a pot with lid. You can purchase shampoo caps individually packaged that you warm up in microwave too, but they are costly and I make my own. Often I have needed to do this for those in the hospital or bedridden. Its not possible for my clients to always have their hair done on their bath day so this is how we get things done in my salon. There certainly is not much out there on the market for ADA compliant equipment for salons. I want to design some things. Its a bit of a twister game all day long and very hard on a stylist's back, neck and shoulders for sure. I need a live-in massage therapist.