A Guide to Grooming Someone Who is Bedbound

Shaving a bedbound patientPersonal care can be challenging when you can’t get out of bed. But grooming is important, especially when you are bedbound. Clean skin and hair, clean bedding, and even getting dressed can make your loved one more comfortable and boost self-esteem.

A home health aide can help by bathing and shampooing your loved one while they are bedbound and can support you until you feel comfortable doing it on your own. If you’re ever unsure of what to do, just ask a nurse or home health aide to demonstrate.

10 Steps for Bathing a Bedbound Person

Bathing cleans the skin, stimulates circulation, and provides movement. Most people do not need a full bath every day, but do wash the hands, face, and genital area daily. When you bathe your loved one, uncover and wash one body part at a time, telling them what you are going to wash as you go along. Cover each part again before you move to the next.

  1. Gather the supplies you will need: non-latex medical gloves, sheet or blanket, basin of warm water, mild soap, two large towels, washcloths, baby oil or lotion (optional), adult brief if needed, and clean clothes.
  2. Put up the side rails of the bed, or put stable chairs at the side of the bed. This will help prevent a fall. Be sure the chairs do not slide.
  3. Close the door and curtains for privacy. Adjust the room temperature if needed.
  4. Put on gloves.
  5. Remove your loved one’s clothes and adult brief (if using). Cover them with the blanket.
  6. Place a towel under the body part you are washing. Use a small amount of soap (too much can cause dryness). Rinse the body part and gently pat dry—do not rub. Gently massage baby oil or lotion onto areas with dry skin.
  7. Start with the face and work down. Skip the private areas and wash the legs. Roll your loved one to one side to wash their back.
  8. Wash the private area and buttocks last.
  9. Remove all body waste.
  10. Dress in clean clothes or gown and change the sheets.

11 Steps for Washing a Bedbound Person’s Hair

As with bathing, most people do not need their hair washed every day.

  1. Gather things you will need: large trash bag, five to six large towels, a kitchen-size garbage bag, a two-gallon basin of warm water, a washcloth, a plastic cup, mild shampoo, hair dryer (optional).
  2. Open the trash bag. Roll the sides down until the bag looks like a bowl. Line the bag with two or three towels to catch water. This helps keep the bed dry.
  3. Put the pillow in the kitchen-size garbage bag (like the bag is a pillowcase) and cover the pillow with a towel.
  4. Put the towel-lined trash bag under the head. Roll up another towel and place it in the bag, positioned under your loved one’s neck.
  5. Fold the washcloth in half. Place it over your loved one’s eyes. (They may want to hold it in place.)
  6. Use the cup to wet their hair. Be careful to keep water off their face by covering their forehead with your free hand.
  7. Gently massage shampoo (about the size of a quarter or less) into the hair and scalp. Lift the head gently to massage underneath.
  8. Rinse the hair with cups of clean water until all traces of shampoo are gone.
  9. To remove the trash bag, carefully unroll it, keeping the water inside the bag.
  10. Gently pat dry the hair with a towel, or use a hair dryer on low. Remove the towel from the pillow and the pillow from the bag when the hair is dry.
  11. If needed, gently comb the hair.

14 Steps for Changing Sheets Around a Bedbound Person

When your loved one spends most of their time in bed, changing the sheets at least once a day is important for cleanliness and comfort. Here’s how:

  1. Gather the things you will need: two clean flat sheets (not fitted), bed pads, blanket, pillowcases, and a plastic bag.
  2. Put up the side rails of the bed, or put stable chairs at the side of the bed. This will help prevent a fall. Be sure the chairs do not slide.
  3. Imagine the bed divided in half lengthwise. Roll your loved one to the side of the bed away from you.
  4. Un-tuck the dirty sheet from under the mattress on your side. Roll it lengthwise toward the center of the bed until the roll rests by your loved one’s back.
  5. Take a clean flat sheet and fold it in half lengthwise. Put it on the bed with the fold running down the center.
  6. Roll the top half of this sheet to the center of the bed. Tuck the unrolled half of the sheet under the mattress. Be careful to smooth out all wrinkles.
  7. Add a bed pad, if needed: Fold the pad in half, put the fold at the center, and roll the top half to the center.
  8. Roll your loved one so they are lying flat on their back in the center of the bed (they will be lying on top of the rolls).
  9. Put up the side rails or move the chairs on the opposite side of the bed.
  10. Roll your loved one so they are on the clean half of the sheets.
  11. Remove the dirty sheets completely. Put in the plastic bag.
  12. Unroll the clean bottom sheet (and bed pad, if using) from the center of the bed. Stretch out the sheet and smooth out wrinkles. Tuck the sheet under the mattress.
  13. Cover your loved one with the second sheet. Tuck it in and add a blanket if they prefer.
  14. Change the pillowcases and adjust the pillows.

8 Tips for Helping Your Loved One Get Dressed

Getting dressed for the day provides a normal routine and help your loved one maintain their dignity.

  1. Dress in everyday clothes for as long as possible. There could be a time when it may be better to use a hospital gown.
  2. Choose clothes that are easy to put on and take off. Look for clothes with snaps, zippers, Velcro, drawstrings,  or elastic waistbands. Shirts with loose necklines will help, as well.
  3. If they can, let your loved one choose their outfit. Give two or three choices to pick from.
  4. Be flexible. Wearing a bra or hat may not be important.
  5. Let your loved one dress themself as much as possible. Hand them one item of clothing at a time.
  6. If they have a weak side, put the clothes on that side first. When undressing, take the clothes off the weak side last.
  7. On some clothing, Velcro can be put in place of buttons. Attach zipper pulls attached to the zipper’s metal tab (a large paper clip can also be used).
  8. If wearing shoes, choose slip-on sneakers or ones with Velcro closures. Use extended shoehorns.

For more information, download our free patient guide.

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