Bathing and Grooming for Bedbound Patients

Document created by ssnider Employee on Jan 7, 2017Last modified by alawson on Mar 27, 2017
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Bathing and showering as usual helps maintain a sense of independence and self-confidence. Placing a stool or shower chair in the shower or tub may allow the patient to bathe independently as long as possible. When this is no longer possible and bathing is necessary for a person confined to bed, let that person bathe themselves as much as he or she can, if they choose. Perhaps your loved one only needs you to gather the bath supplies and help wash their back and feet.


If your loved one is too weak, you will have to take charge of most of the bath. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Gather towels, a washcloth, a light cotton or flannel blanket, soap, lotion and other toiletries, and a basin. 
  • Provide as much privacy as you can during the bath, and close doors and windows to prevent drafts. 
  • Wash your hands.
  • Place the basin near the bed and change the water as it gets cold or dirty.
  • Help your loved one remove his or her nightclothes.
  • Cover the body with a light blanket and wash a small area at a time to avoid chilling.
    • With a wet washcloth, but without soap, gently wipe one eyelid from inner corner to outer corner, dry the eyelid, rinse the cloth, and rinse and dry the other eyelid.
    • Rinse the face, neck and ears with soap and water, rinse well and pat dry.
    • Place a towel under the person's arm, and using long, smooth strokes, wipe from hand to underarm. Wash, rinse and dry completely, giving special attention to the underarm area. Repeat for the other arm.
    • Place the basin on a towel on the bed, place your loved one's hands in the basin and wash and dry one hand at a time.
    • Fold down the towel or blanket to expose the person's chest and stomach and wash, rinse and dry. Be sure to dry any creases or skin folds thoroughly. 
    • Uncover one leg, put a towel under it, and using the same long, smooth strokes, wash, rinse and dry the leg. Re-cover that leg and repeat on the other side. Place the basin  on the bed and soak, wash and dry the feet.
    • Help the person turn onto his or her side, making sure he or she is not too close to the edge. Put a towel on the bed along the back, and wash, rinse and dry the neck, shoulders, back, buttocks and upper thighs.
    • Change the water and wash the perineal or pubic area last. Place your loved one on the back with knees flexed and spread apart.  Gently wash from front to back, away from the penis or vagina, never back and forth. Rinse well and dry gently, including the inner thighs


  • If a lotion has been prescribed to help protect the skin from irritation, this is the time to apply, as instructed.
  • After bathing, ask the person to turn on one side, and change the underpads and lift sheet, daily or more often, as needed

If a complete bath cannot be tolerated, give a partial bed bath. Follow all the steps for a complete bed bath but wash only face, hands, underarms and genital area.


Most patients feel better when attention is paid to their personal grooming. You can shave, brush and style hair at bath time. 


Clothing should be comfortable and as stylish as desired. If limited movement makes it difficult to get clothing on and off, cut clothing down the back and sew on Velcro tapes.