How to Bathe Someone in a Wheelchair

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Last updatedLast updated: July 01, 2022
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How to Bathe Someone in a Wheelchair

Would you like to know how to bathe someone in a wheelchair? As awkward as it may seem, helping a person with a disability (PwD) (who can be a person with long-term physical, intellectual, mental, or sensory impairments) is essential considering how physically and emotionally challenging this activity can be for them. 

If they can get in and out of bed, eat, and get around in their wheelchair, the bathroom – especially to shower – isn’t a place or activity you should leave them to do or go. A bathroom is a place we are most likely to fall in than any other place, even for people without disabilities. 

Seniors suffer as much as 80% of fall-related injuries in the bathroom. So, it’s strictly recommended to assist them in bathing or supervise them while they bathe. But how does a person in a wheelchair take a shower, or how do you help them bathe? In this article, we’ll see everything you need and the steps to take to make it happen. 

Is Showering in a Wheelchair Safe?

For the elderly or PWD in a wheelchair, there is a severe risk of accidents and injuries if they try to help themselves to this activity.

A bathroom is a dangerous place for seniors and people with disabilities. Eighty percent of falls at home occur here, and according to the CDC, 80% of fall-related injuries in the bathroom are suffered by seniors. 

A 2002 study published by the NCBI shows that 38% of wheelchair users fall at least once a year, and 17.7% of them suffer an injury. 

Never leave a person with a disability to take a shower without being assisted or at least supervised. 

How to Shower Someone in a Wheelchair Properly?

Straight to it, we will see the procedure for taking a senior or anyone with disabilities to the bathroom in their wheelchair. First, we will outline what you need to do before starting and the products to accomplish this. 

The Bathroom Environment, Products, and Aids?

The bathroom must be set up for disabled people to wash themselves, even without someone’s help.

Bathtubs for the Disabled

How to Bathe Someone in a Wheelchair

Installing a bathtub for the disabled is essential to make the moment of personal hygiene safe and easy. They are designed with a side door, seat, and support handles to allow easy access to the tub, even when moving indirectly with the wheelchair.

The tubs with motorized seats allow you to reach the bottom of the tub and get back up effortlessly by virtue of an automated system. They are customizable thanks to the possibility of adding extra accessories. These tubs also adapt to the dimensions available in the bathroom and allow the caregiver put in little effort while the bather carries on in complete safety.

Showers for the Disabled

How to Bathe Someone in a Wheelchair

Alternatively, you can opt for showers designed for the elderly and disabled. There are models designed to allow access even directly with the wheelchair. The shower enclosures for the disabled are of various sizes, with external openings, and can adapt to any structural need of the bathroom. 

Eliminate Anything That Can Be an Obstacle

How to Bathe Someone in a Wheelchair

It is essential to get to the bath or shower safely, so removing anything that can cause a fall or slip is necessary. Examples are carpets that can make you skid your steps or hinder the smooth movement of the wheelchair. Ensure you have non-slip flooring.

Get the Needed Products

How to Bathe Someone in a Wheelchair

It’s almost impossible to bathe someone in a wheelchair. So it’s advisable to purchase a shower chair. The shower chair must have anti-skid feet. Alternatively, you can use a transfer board or transfer bench. These allow the user to slide into the bathtub and then use the shower or a handheld shower. 

Additionally, you will need an anti-skid bath mat placed just at the bathroom or tub entrance to prevent slipping. 

Get all the regular shower accessories and products such as shower caps, soap, shampoo, conditioner, and towel ready, and you’re good to go. 

Steps to Take

Below are steps to follow to shower a person in a wheelchair:

  1. Place the shower chair in the tub. 

If you’re using a transfer bench, place it in the tub. 

  1. Prepare the bathing items and place them within reach of the disabled person. 
  2. Help the person to go to the bathroom while in their wheelchair
  3. Assist the person in undressing. If they don’t want their hair to get wet, wear a shower cap on their head. 
  4. Move them to the tub side on their wheelchair and explain how you will transfer them onto the bath chair. 
  5. Transfer the person from the wheelchair to the bath chair or transfer bench. 
  6. Turn on the water. If they can, let them bathe. If necessary, help the person scrub their back.
  7. If they can’t, start by washing their head. Shampoo the hair and rinse. Next, condition the hair. 
  8. Let the water run on their hair to wash off the conditioner.
  9. Continue by washing their face and then the entire body. 
  10. When you’re done, let the water run over their body while rinsing them off the soap lather. 
  11. Turn off the water and dry the skin completely 
  12. Help them make the transfer safely back into the wheelchair from the bath chair 
  13. Help the person get dressed.
  14. You can apply moisturizers and lotions to prevent dryness and cracking of the skin.

Safety Considerations

How to Bathe Someone in a Wheelchair

White Plastic shower seat used by the elderly and disabled to aid them by allowing them to sit and wash often reccommended by occupational therapists

  • Be careful while transferring the person from the wheelchair to the bath chair. This is the most challenging task. Ensure you’re not wearing slippery slippers and have a non-skid bath mat beside the tub. 
  • Don’t leave a person with a disability or a senior to take a shower without being assisted or at least supervised. 
  • It is essential to follow the advice of a specialist who will indicate the technical cleaning aids they will need. These may be useful depending on the degree of disability of the affected person.

Alternative: Bed-Bathing

Bed-bathing is another option you may want to consider if you don’t have a bathroom designed for wheelchair access or if the process will be tedious for you or the person. 

In addition, if a person in need of care can no longer get up for personal hygiene due to their illness, bathing in bed is often the only option.

In the video below, you’ll find out all the items needed, the steps to be taken, and other tips to carry out a bed bath/

Final Thoughts

So, you’ve seen how to bathe someone in a wheelchair – not exactly in a wheelchair, but by transferring them from a wheelchair to the bathtub chair and vice versa after bath. 

Above all, when you have a dependent family member, it is necessary to help them get to the bathroom and avoid possible risks that could harm them. In some cases, it is recommended to adapt the bathroom to the needs of the disabled person.

To make bathing for the disabled easier, it’s helpful to have a technical aid such as a bath or shower chair. They are made of water-resistant metal and plastic materials. You only need to transfer the bather from the wheelchair to the shower chair, bathe them or let them wash up under your supervision.

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