How to Bathe the Handicapped

towels and soap image by Inger Anne Hulbækdal from Fotolia.com

People who are handicapped may not be able to perform self-care duties without modifications to their home or the assistance of a caregiver. When handicapped adults bathe themselves, the tub or shower should be equipped with items such as grab bars, seats and handheld shower nozzles. If a handicapped person is bedridden and cannot be moved to a tub or shower stall, that person will need to be bathed in bed. There are techniques that make this process easier for both the caregiver and the handicapped individual.

Close any open windows or turn up the heat to make the room temperature more comfortable.

Fill two basins with warm water. The temperature should be no more than 115 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid scalding. Test the temperature with a bath thermometer. One basin will be for the soapy washcloth and the other for the rinsing washcloth.

Turn back the top sheet that is covering the individual so it won't get wet. Place a cotton blanket over the top sheet. This will keep the individual warm and also provide privacy during the bath.

Remove the clothes, keeping the individual covered with the blanket as much as possible for privacy and warmth.

Put on disposable gloves.

Wet one of the washcloths and wring it out. Clean the eye area by gently wiping the eye from the inner corner outward with the damp cloth. Dry the area with a towel. Use the other side of the damp cloth and repeat cleaning the other eye. Rinse the cloth in the rinsing basin and leave in the warm water.

Wet the other washcloth and apply a small amount of soap to it. Clean the face, neck and ears. Place the soapy washcloth in the other basin designated for soapy water. Grab the rinsing washcloth out of the rinsing basin, and wring out the excess water. Wipe down the just-cleaned areas. Dry with a towel. Return rinsing washcloth to its basin.

Lay the towel under one arm. Apply more soap to the soapy washcloth, and clean the arm, hand and underarm area. When finished, place the cloth in the soapy basin and wipe down the arm, hand and underarm area with the rinsing cloth. Return the rinsing cloth to its basin. Dry with the towel. Be sure to get the underarm area completely dry to prevent chafing. Repeat steps with the other arm.

Fold the blanket down and clean the chest and stomach area with the soapy washcloth. When finished, return the soapy cloth to its basin and use the rinsing cloth to wipe down the area. Return it to its basin and dry the area with the towel. Cover that portion of the body with the blanket.

Remove the blanket from over one leg. Place a towel under the leg. Clean the leg and foot with the soapy washcloth. Add more soap at any time if needed. When finished, return the soapy cloth to its basin and wipe down the area with the rinsing cloth. Return it to its basin, and dry the leg completely. Cover the leg with the blanket. Repeat steps with the other leg.

Empty both basins at this point and refill with warm water. Remember to check the temperature. Rinse out both washcloths thoroughly in the sink. Place the bottle of body lotion into the rinsing basin to warm it while you finish the bath.

Help the individual to roll to one side. Place a towel on the bed near the person’s back.

Fold the blanket out of the way. Wet the first washcloth in warm water, and apply soap to it. Clean the neck, back, buttocks and thighs. Place the soapy cloth in its designated basin. Wet the other washcloth in its basin of warm water and wipe down the area. When completed, return it to its basin. Dry the areas.

Apply the warmed lotion to the person's back.

Change the water again in both basins and refill with warm water. Check the temperature. Grab two new washcloths before cleaning the genital area. Wet the designated soapy washcloth and apply soap. Clean the genital area and the anus last. Place the cloth in the soapy-water basin. Wet the rinsing cloth in its basin of water and wipe down the genital area and the anus last. Return the cloth to its basin. Dry the area with the towel. Be sure to clean this area daily to prevent odors and infection.

Remove the blanket. Help the person dress into clean clothing. Change the sheets if they got wet during the bath.