Aging Parents–Summer Heat: How Often Should Elderly People Bathe?

Summer heat makes daily showering/bathing a necessity for many. But what about  elderly people’s more fragile skin?

I remember my Dad’s talking about his oldest sister–in her early 90’s. She had recently moved to assisted living and her daughters (Dad’s nieces) had complained to him that she was only allowed to shower once–or twice (I’ve forgotten–it was many years ago) a week. I was young then; no doubt overheard the conversation and found it strange.

R at 99 Something to Laugh about

Laughing at a joke–R at 99       Click to enlarge

But it surfaced from deep in my memory recently when cleaning out Sr. Advisor R’s home. In spite of living in the Southwest desert 3/4 of her 101-year-old life, she had amazingly firm arms for her age and relatively few wrinkles. She told every younger female friend living in the desert her secret: “moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.”

I knew R used–and changed–moisturizing lotions over the years and ended up using Curél products; so I shouldn’t have been surprised to find their plastic containers by every sink in her home.IMG_0964

R bathed (unaided other than by a grab-bar) whenever she felt like it–I’m thinking until she broke her hip at 97. She then had the stall shower refitted and bought a shower bench. She continued to shower (unaided). I have no idea how often. I do know she was always well-groomed.

One wonders if assisted-living administrators require their “residents” to have an aide assist them when bathing or showering?  And/or is the two-day-a-week bathing/showering limit to save money and time? Or is it better for elderly skin not to have too much soap and water exposure?

Sr. Advisor D, now 90,  to the rescue. She went for her annual dermatologist appointment recently and put the question to her dermatologist–a well-known “Top Doc” in Westchester County (NY), who said in essence:

Older people’s skin doesn’t slough off and renew itself as easily and often as that of younger people. Baths/showers help skin to slough off; otherwise it can become a breeding ground for bacteria. It follows that elders confined to one or two showers/baths a week won’t have the sloughing off and renewal that more frequent bathing provides.

Frequent bathing/showering calls for using lotions to combat dryness..

For infrequent bathers, the creases–arm pits, under breasts, private parts–need to kept clean. This means washing them more often. One wonders about using antibacterial lotions, which I believe the dermatologist mentioned.

Since hygiene is important in helping parents age well, if there’s any doubt about bathing/showering recommendations doesn’t it make sense to check with elders’ doctors, as opposed to a care facility’s personnel.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.

Related: CNN Health: Is Bathing Just Once a Week Healthy?

2 thoughts on “Aging Parents–Summer Heat: How Often Should Elderly People Bathe?

  1. I watch over my 82 year old father, and I give him a decent shower once every week. When I’m set, I put moisturizer on his skin to keep it hydrated. In any case, I have CNAs come in each morning to give him a wipe shower to wash his face and the greater part of the essential regions.

    • Thanks for sharing, Sharon. Does a wipe shower–with any wipe– tend to dry the skin or is there a preferred product, or is using moisturizer after recommended?

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