Caregiver Training: Refusal to Bathe | UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care

Why choose wikiHow?
wikiHow marks an article as reader approved once we have received enough feedback to know that most readers were able to successfully complete the task. In this case, we have also received several testimonials from our readers, who told us how this article truly helped them.

How to Give a Sponge Bath

Three Parts:

Sponge baths, or bed baths, are used to bathe people who are are bedridden or unable to bathe on their own due to health reasons. Giving a bed bath involves washing and rinsing the entire body one section at a time while the patient remains in bed. It is important to gather all the supplies needed before you begin so you do not have to leave the patient unattended. A good bed bath will leave the person feeling clean and comfortable.


Preparing to Give the Bath

  1. Fill two basins or washtubs with warm water.One is used for washing, and the other for rinsing. The water temperature should be 115 degrees F (46 degrees C) or less. You want it to be comfortable to the touch, but not too hot.
  2. Choose soap that's easy to rinse away.Most bar soaps are fine to use. Body washes are also acceptable as long as they don't leave a residue. You may add soap to one of the basins to create a bowl of warm, soapy water for washing, or keep the soap separate and apply it directly to the patient's skin.
    • Avoid using soap that has exfoliating beads or other substances that could end up staying on the patient's skin and causing irritation.
    • No-rinse soaps are available at drug stores. This is a convenient solution for a quicker cleanse, but they leave a residue so you'll still need to rinse the patient's body from time to time.
  3. Get shampooing supplies ready.If you plan to shampoo the patient's hair, you'll need shampoo that's easy to rinse out (such as baby shampoo) and a special basin designed for washing hair in bed. You can find one at a medical supply store, and it's a big help when it comes to washing hair in bed without getting water everywhere.
    • If you don't have a special basin, you can make do by placing an extra towel or two under the patient's head to protect the bed from getting too wet.
  4. Have a stack of clean towels and washcloths ready.At minimum you'll need three large towels and two washcloths, but it's nice to have extra in case there's a spill or the supplies get soiled.
    • It's convenient to stack towels, washcloth, the water basins and soap on a portable cart, such as a TV cart, so you can keep everything you need close to the bed.
  5. Place two towels under the patient.This will prevent the bed from getting wet and keep the patient comfortable during the process. To place the towels under the patient, lift the patient onto their side and scoot the towel under, then carefully lower the patient and do the same on the other side.
  6. Cover the patient with a clean sheet or towel.This will ensure the patient stays warm during the bath as well as providing some privacy. The sheet or towel will stay on the patient's body the whole time.
    • Be sure to adjust the temperature in the room if necessary, to prevent the patient from getting a chill.
  7. Remove the patient's clothes.Fold down the sheet or towel, uncovering the patient's top half, and remove their shirt. Replace the sheet over the top half of the patient. Fold the sheet back from the patient's legs and remove their pants and underwear. Recover the patient with the sheet.
    • Try to keep as much of the patient covered as possible while you're removing the clothes.
    • Keep in mind that this process can be embarrassing for some people, so try to work quickly and with a purposeful attitude.

Bathing the Head, Chest and Legs

  1. Use the same cleansing and rinsing method for the whole body.First apply soap or soapy water to the patient's skin. Scrub it gently with a washcloth to remove dirt and bacteria, then place the washcloth in the soapy basin. Dip a second washcloth into the rinsing basin and use it to rinse away the soap. Pat the area dry with a towel.
    • Remember to rotate between the two washcloths: use one for soaping and one for rinsing. If the cloths become soiled, switch to clean ones.
    • Replace the water in the basins as necessary.
  2. Start with the patient's face.Gently wash the patient's face, ears and neck with soapy water. Rinse away the soap with a separate washcloth. Dry the cleansed area with a towel.
  3. Wash the patient's hair.Gently lift their head into the shampooing basin. Wet the hair by pouring water over the patient's head, taking care not to get it in their eyes. Apply shampoo, then rinse it away. Pat the hair dry with a towel.
  4. Wash the patient's left arm and shoulder.Fold over the sheet on the left side of the body down to the hip. Place a towel beneath the exposed arm. Wash and rinse the patient's shoulder, underarm, arm and hand. Dry the wet areas with a towel.
    • Dry the washed areas thoroughly, especially the underarm, to prevent chafing and bacteria growth.
    • Recover with the sheet to keep the patient warm.
  5. Wash the patient's right arm and shoulder.Fold over the sheet to expose the right side. Place the towel beneath the other arm and repeat, washing, rinsing and drying the right shoulder, underarm, arm and hand.
    • Dry the washed areas thoroughly, especially the underarm, to prevent chafing and bacteria growth.
    • Recover with the sheet to keep the patient warm.
  6. Wash the patient's torso.Fold the sheet down to the waist and gently wash and rinse the chest, stomach and sides. Be sure to wash carefully among any folds in the patient's skin, since bacteria tends to get trapped there. Dry the torso carefully, especially among the folds.
    • Recover the patient with the sheet to keep the patient warm.
  7. Wash the patient's legs.Uncover the patient's right leg up to the waist, and wash, rinse and dry the leg and foot. Recover the right leg and uncover the left, then wash, rinse and dry the leg and foot. Recover the lower half of the body.

Bathing the Back and Private Area

  1. Empty the water basins and refill with clean water.Since approximately half the patient's body is now clean, it's a good time to refill the water.
  2. Ask the patient to roll on their side if they are able.You may have to assist the person. Make sure they are not too close to the edge of the bed.
  3. Wash the patient's back and buttocks.Fold the sheet over to expose the entire back side of the patient. Wash, rinse and dry the back of the patient's neck, back, buttocks and parts of the legs you may have missed.
  4. Wash the genital area and anus.Put on latex gloves if desired. Lift the person's leg and wash from front to back. Use a clean washcloth to rinse the area. Be sure to clean thoroughly between folds, and dry the area thoroughly as well.
    • Males should be washed behind the testicles. Wash female's labia, but there's no need to clean the vagina.
    • This part of the body should be washed every day, even when you're not giving a full-body bed bath.
  5. Redress the patient.When you're finished, dress the patient in clean clothes or a robe. First replace the patient's shirt, keeping the sheet over his or her legs. Then remove the sheet and replace the person's underwear and pants.
    • Elderly skin tends to get dry, so you may want to apply lotion to the arms and legs before putting their clothes back on.
    • Comb the person's hair and apply cosmetics and other body products according to the patient's preferences.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    When is a sponge bath appropriate?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It is appropriate if the person can't stand well or just can't get out of bed.
  • Question
    Can you provide a question and answer sheet about bathing a patient in the hospital?
    Top Answerer
    Bathing a patient in the hospital should only be performed by trained medical personnel. That training will provide answers to all questions. Furthermore, much of this procedure depends on the specific needs of each patient. Your best bet would be to ask a nurse or a doctor.
  • Question
    What is the difference between a sponge bath and a bed bath?
    Top Answerer
    A sponge bath usually includes the patient's physical presence in a bathtub, whereas a bed bath is drier and does not require the recipient to leave his bed, which is very useful in hospital environments when a patient has reduced mobility.
  • Question
    How do I give a bath to an elderly lady who uses a walker?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It helps if the tub has handrails, and make sure the water is to her liking before helping her in.
  • Question
    How can I give a sponge bath to an unconscious patient?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    In the event that you need to give a sponge bath to someone who's unconscious, it's best to have another person there monitoring them to avoid any risk of discomfort or choking. Otherwise, you can follow the same steps outlined in this article.
Ask a Question
200 characters left
Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered.
  • It is not necessary to wash a bed-ridden person's hair daily. But if desired, there are products designed to clean the hair without water.
  • If the patient has open sores, it is recommended that you wear disposable gloves the entire time while giving a bed bath.

Things You'll Need

  • Basin or washtub
  • Warm water
  • Sheet
  • Blanket
  • Mild soap
  • 6 washcloths (2 for face, 2 for body, 2 for peri care)
  • 2 large towels (1 for body, 1 for peri care)
  • Disposable gloves
  • Grooming products such as deodorant and lotion

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

Article Info


In other languages:

Español: , Русский: , Italiano: , Português: , Deutsch: , Français: , Bahasa Indonesia: , 中文: , Čeština: 

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 228,852 times.
Did this article help you?

About This Article

How helpful is this?
Views: 228,852

Quick Summary

Before you give someone a sponge bath, fill a basin with soapy water andanother basin with plain water. Then, soak a washcloth in the soapy water and use it to wash the person's body. Next, dip a second, clean washcloth in the basin of plain water rinse the soap off with it. Repeat that process on each section of the person’s body, patting them dry as you go.

Success Stories

Sheri Hendrix

Apr 18, 2019

"My father was recently diagnosed with cancer. Towards the end of January, his prognosis was months. He pretty muchgave up after he got that news. We are trying to avoid having him institutionalized, so my family and I are doing everything we can to keep him home and comfortable. The instructions here are perfect for someone like me who has no experience with bathing elderly, frail, bedridden individuals. Thanks for the great illustrations and directions!"

April Hunt

Jun 13, 2019

"Very helpful!! I'm bedridden and a health care aid is starting today and I wanted to know what was going to happen.As well, I wanted to know what supplies were needed. This was very comforting to read as it told me how my private parts would be covered up and helped me mentally prepare myself for my very first experience with a sponge bath by a health care aid. Thank you for providing this information service for those of us needing assistance. "

Elaine S.

Aug 16, 2019

"This is the first time in my life that I am faced with the challenge of washing a grown up - my elderly mother, whois too weak to do it herself. Thank you so much for these instructions – I now know exactly what to do."

Michelle Lehman

Jul 11, 2019

"I've never given a bed bath, and this lady is quite large and very sensitive to being touched. She bruises easilyand has dry, chafed skin. I didn't realize no-rinse soap left a residue. Thank you for this article."
Rated this article:

Elaine Tyler

Oct 26, 2019

"Very detailed. The step-by-step instructions are very helpful. I typically bathe my mother in her blow-up tub, butit's extremely difficult to do alone, as I have to use the Hoyer lift. "

Tracey Martin

Apr 18, 2019

"Out of all the articles, I chose this one. It was direct and to-the-point. The pictures were a plus. Thank you.After reading this, I knew I was doing it right."

D. M.

May 27, 2019

"Helping a friend care for his elderly relative and did not know how to give a sponge bath. This site provided clearand concise instructions."

Janet Robinson

Jun 20, 2019

"My husband just had 2 strokes. I needed to learn how to bathe him. This article was very clear and concise."
Rated this article:

T. A.

Video: Giving a Patient a Bed Bath

How to Give a Sponge Bath
How to Give a Sponge Bath images

2019 year
2019 year - How to Give a Sponge Bath pictures

How to Give a Sponge Bath advise
How to Give a Sponge Bath forecasting photo

How to Give a Sponge Bath pics
How to Give a Sponge Bath picture

How to Give a Sponge Bath How to Give a Sponge Bath new images
How to Give a Sponge Bath new foto

picture How to Give a Sponge Bath
pics How to Give a Sponge Bath

Watch How to Give a Sponge Bath video
Watch How to Give a Sponge Bath video

Discussion on this topic: How to Give a Sponge Bath, how-to-give-a-sponge-bath/
Communication on this topic: How to Give a Sponge Bath, how-to-give-a-sponge-bath/ , how-to-give-a-sponge-bath/

Related News

10 Things Never to Say to Your Ex
I Dated an Afghan Millionaire with TwoWives’
Low-Fat Grilling
The Guy Who Quit His High-Paying Job toChange the World
Why Pepsis Ad Campaign Starring Kendall Jenner Is So Tone-Deaf
Parmesan Brussels Sprouts
Parents Are Outraged Over Assignment Asking Kids About Trophy Wives and Boy Toys
20 Fabulous Outfits With Lace Up Pants
Cinnamon: 10 Potent Health Benefits The Best Type Of Cinnamon
I Tried Wearing A Tracker To Stop Playing With My Hair, And Heres How It Went
The Adorable (and Hilarious) Way Robin Williams Helped a Teen Get a Prom Date
Amandla Stenberg Was Told to Lose Weight, Make Her Boobs Look Smaller for aFilm
Instant Pot Apple Cider Glazed Chicken

Date: 03.12.2018, 13:30 / Views: 84445