When a senior voices concerns about being cold during the bathing process, it’s not usually because they are being entitled or difficult.
Seniors’ bodies tend to function a little differently when it comes to temperature regulation, and it’s essential for loved ones to understand that and react appropriately.
This article will discuss tips on keeping the elderly warm before, during, and after bathing to make their experience more enjoyable while promoting their overall quality of life and wellness and a safe tub bathing experience.
Why The Elderly Are Cold
As we age, many physiological processes and health changes make us feel colder. For one, the fat layer under the skin is growing thinner, which decreases the body’s insulation.
Elderly folks may be prone to getting colder if they’re on medication that decreases their heart rate, which reduces circulation to the hands and feet. Others who get colder easier may have an underlying medical issue like hypertension, nerve disorders, or diabetes.
Before The Bath
Here are a few tricks to getting things warmed up before the elderly individual even steps into the bathroom:
- Run the shower or tub with the door closed for a few minutes. Build up some steam and heat to warm up the bathroom.
- If there’s a heating lamp, get that up and running for a few minutes too.
- If there’s a thermostat, scoot that up a few notches and get the heat stirring with the door closed.
- Have all bath essentials out and within reach, including towels and soaps. This prevents the person from having to get in and out of the shower or bathtub.
- Ensure the individual has had a nutritious meal and plenty of fluids before the bath. Increased fluid intake equals increased circulation, and nourishing vitamins and minerals aid in thermoregulation.
During The Bath
During the bath, consider the following to keep the senior warm:
- Help them in and out of the bath if they need it
- Regularly check to ensure the water temperature is still warm.
- For some seniors with a poor sense of time (particularly those with cognitive impairments), consider setting a timer, so they don’t run out of hot water while bathing.
- Make sure the shower steam is still effectively trapped by the shower curtain or door.
- Double-check the heating lamp to make sure it’s running smoothly.
- Avoid opening and closing the door to prevent unwanted air drafts. Of course, having the door closed or preventing air circulation increases your risk for mold, so be conscientious about cleaning up damp and wet spots after the bath.
After The Bath
Once the bath or shower is complete, start incorporating the following:
- Immediately start the drying-off process by draping soft and warm bath towels over them. Maybe consider investing in large plush towels and throw out the small, old ragged towels.
- Dry and control any dripping from the hair.
- If it’s a bit of a process to get the individual dressed, get them covered in a bathrobe to regulate their temperature first.
- Suggest getting them dressed in the bathroom instead of another room to bask in the trapped steam and heat.
- Get those hands and feet dried and covered as soon as possible since those tend to run the coldest on elderly folks with poor circulation.
Seniors can improve their overall bathroom experience and regulate their body temperature by adopting some new activities during their daily routine.
This includes supplementing their day with regular exercise that gets the heart pumping and the muscles stronger. Sample exercises include:
Select an exercise based on your needs and your physical and health capacity.
RELATED: Are Walk-In Tubs Good for Seniors?
Summary and Final Recommendations
Caregivers can assist elderly loved ones in experiencing better showers or baths by ensuring they don’t freeze out. Acknowledge their concerns without being dismissive of their temperature complaints.
Be attentive to their needs throughout the bathing process and integrate some tricks during their daily routine to regulate their body temperature.
If concerns or complaints about being cold become more frequent, despite your best efforts to make them comfortable, there may be an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed by a physician.
- Nagourney, E. (2012). Why am I so cold? NY Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/booming/why-do-i-feel-colder-as-i-get-older.html
- Why does your body temperature change as you age? 4 things you can do to combat heat and cold intolerances (2020). Senior Health. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-does-your-body-temperature-change-as-you-age/