Bathing Risks For The Elderly - A Guide For Care Homes

There are many reasons why elderly people may find bathing challenging. A daily task which most of us take for granted can become an overwhelming physical and psychological obstacle in older age, and with that, comes increased risk. Whether living independently, receiving help at home or in residential care, deep bath water and overhead showers can be intimidating. Washing and bathing is not only difficult for the frail, it is also common source of worry and anxiety for people living with dementia.

Trouble getting in and out of the bath

Getting in and out of the bath safely takes a combination of balance, motor skills and muscle strength that many of us take for granted in our younger years. The risks of injury while attempting to get into the bath or being unable to get out once in are daunting and dangerous, especially for people who live alone and cannot call for assistance.

Equipment to assist with this is often easy to install at home and is frequently used by care homes to aide staff in bathing residents. Bath boards, transfer benches and seats can help a person gradually ease themselves into the bath in stages, or allows them to sit partially submerged, avoiding the physical need to lower themselves fully.

Quick and easy to install, grab rails with textured surfaces for extra grip when wet are also an excellent addition to any bathroom setting. Rails fixed horizontally to the wall beside a bath are often used in combination with bath boards and help people move from sitting to standing positions with greater ease.


Reducing the risk of scalding

A person’s reduced mobility means they are slower to respond safely to contact with hot water. Scalding, and indeed the risk of falling when attempting to get out of a bath more quickly than they are able, is a serious risk which not only has the potential to causes severe pain but can lead to complications such as shock, heat exhaustion, infection and scarring.

Running the cold tap first before adding hot water, mixing bath water thoroughly before getting in and not adding hot water once already in are all useful tips for those who run their own bath. In addition to a thermometer, easy to handle ergonomic shower controls and bath taps can really support those living independently in controlling water temperature more precisely, ideal for people with weakened grip or arthritis in the hand.

For care homes or those looking to improve the safety of their own bathroom, there is a wide range of equipment avaible that can be used to help control the temperature of bath and shower water, from simple thermometers to thermostatic taps which allow a simple single action control for both flow and temperature of the water.


Preventing falls in the shower

The likelihood of experiencing a fall increases as we enter our older years – approximately 1 in 3 adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year, with half of these people falling frequently. Falling can result in hip fracture, broken bones, and head injuries. Therefore, precautions must be taken around the home of elderly people and in professional care settings to mitigate risks and hazards where possible. Slippery surfaces are a risk to anyone – thankfully, there is a range of equipment which can be purchased for the home or which is installed in care homes that help reduce the risk of falling for the most vulnerable.

Again, grab bars and rails can provide an excellent support for stability. They can be fixed at the entrance to a shower and inside the cubicle itself to avoid tripping and to assist with maintaining balance and steady footing.

The risk of falling or slipping can be greatly reduced with in-shower seating. From wall-fixed fold-down seats to four-legged chairs, shower seats can give huge peace of mind to those living independently and mean that less-abled people in care can shower easily with assistance.


To find out more about the risks and precautions involved in bathing the elderly, please visit:

Disabled Living Foundation

National Council on Aging   

Alzheimer’s Society



NHS Inform

NHS Choices

United Kingdom Homecare Association

Health and Safety Executive