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Old 12-14-2011, 09:40 PM   #1
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Default Sponge Bath Help

My MIL has non-hodgekins lymphoma. She's been taking chemotherapy for a couple of years. After a body scan last week, they changed the chemo she is taking. This will be the first time she loses her hair. This round of chemo has really kicked her bottom. She is extremely weak. She said that my FIL tried to give her a sponge bath today, but he didn't get the soap off her body and she felt sticky. I told her that if she would wash her own privates, I would give her a sponge bath and wash the rest of her body. She is taking care of her own 'bathroom' needs. I figure if she can wipe herself, she can wash herself there. I've hurt her feelings, which wasn't my intention. She said that she needs that cleaned, too.

She was a nurse her whole career, so she is a tough patient. She had knee replacement surgery 3-4 years ago. I cleaned up Depends and changed sheets where she didn't make it to the bathroom. So, I've helped her with private business, but never like a sponge bath.

I've googled "how to give adult sponge bath." It says wash genitals last. Got that.

Practical Questions: Do I use regular soap? Is there a special, non-rinsing soap? How do I wash her hair if she can't get in and out of the tub? (She still has her hair now.)

Emotional Question: How do I bathe my MIL without embarrassing either of us?
Victory (over donuts) is not being free of the desire...its having the ability to say NO!!!

Last edited by Chelby29; 12-14-2011 at 09:41 PM.
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Old 12-14-2011, 09:52 PM   #2
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I am a nurses aide so bathe patients regularly. First of all, don't be embarrassed! Use regular soap or a nice smelling body wash. If your mil can put her head in a basin, do it that way. And washing her groins, you really don't even have to look. Just wash. And wear gloves.


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Old 12-14-2011, 10:12 PM   #3
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Hi i sympathize with you.caring for folks is not easy and being the receiver is just as hard. i was hosp for 6 months and needed help with everything. i had good care givers and am now home and doing well. i used a product that you can get in amazon.com it called a no rinse body wash, and also they have a shampoo. use it like reg soap but it rinses easy and has a nice smell( since its no rinse it doesnt leave a sticky feeling). i liked it so much that i use it now. maybe you can get it at alocal store. i really recomend it. they also have cleaning clothes that u can heat in micro and use and throw like diaper wipes. also there is a shower cap that has a shampoo no rinse in it. just put on your head and massage and then comb hair and let dry. good luck and hope these products can help you. (((hugs))) rosey

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Old 12-14-2011, 10:59 PM   #4
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My mom was in the hospital last year and they kept her covered with a sheet/blanket except for the area they were washing at the moment. They also did this when changing her gowns (except for one particular aide who just whipped everything off... I was shocked and didn't say anything, but I did mention it to her supervisor). You are a saint btw.
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Old 12-14-2011, 11:38 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Chelby29 View Post
Emotional Question: How do I bathe my MIL without embarrassing either of us?
You just do it. You put on your best, most professional, most impersonal face - and you wash. You can try thinking of it as something else, or someone else, but I never found that to be helpful. Anticipating it made it harder. Putting it off made it harder. Once I was ready, I just wanted to do it and be done, but my MIL was a ditherer. It would take a good hour for her to build up the nerve to take her pants off, and that drove -me- crazy, but made her more comfortable.

IME, the first time it's a little weird, but by the time you've done it a few times, there's a routine and a system and you just do it without thinking about it. I agree with drapes (they'll help keep her warm, too). You can order no-rinse body wash, but for my dad (who was moderately mobile, but couldn't get into the tub/shower) they put a shower chair in an under-bed storage bin, sat him on the chair and let the excess water collect in the bin. It felt more like he was really getting clean, and it doesn't use as much water as you'd think.
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Old 12-14-2011, 11:53 PM   #6
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At the hospital where I work, different assistants use different techniques, but if I am ever asked to bathe a patient, this is what I do:
1. Gather all your things. Soap, Shampoo, Deo, 2 basins--1 for soapy water, 1 for clean warm water for rinsing, lotion, towels, & washcloths. I don't care for the "Ready-baths" that you can buy. They are like baby wipes with some type of cleanser in them. You just micro them, wash, and dry. No rinsing. Many people like these, but I don't personally. I only use these in the peri areas (aka private parts).
2. Take mine and Juliana's advice and cover your MIL with a sheet or light blanket. Only expose that part of the body you are washing while keeping the rest of her covered (it's chilly to them).
3. Start at her face and work your way down.
4. Keep a dry towel under the body part you are washing. This keeps the mess at bay. Dry each part as you bathe and rinse it to lessen shivering.
5. Wear gloves each time you bathe her. Put them on beforehand and not just for the private areas.
6. I wash hair last and use the shampoo cap as mentioned above. Just micro them for a few seconds. If you don't have these, you could put baby shampoo on a washcloth and massage the hair, then rinse. Baby shampoo is less foamy than regular adult shampoo. I only use a small amount. Always put a rolled up towel under the head/behind the neck to catch spills.

If possible, I would recommend putting a hand-held shower attachment on your shower head and buying a shower chair. If she is able to sit in a chair, she could sit in the bathtub while you helped her bathe. This technique is so much more effective. You can find these at Goodwill stores for way less than new ones. Just bleach it beforehand!

Sometimes, we are asked and called to do things that seem impossible and embarrassing to us--especially in the medical field. However, I find that if you can spawn a pleasant conversation throughout the procedure, it makes you and them feel a little more at ease. If you are a person of faith, you may ask her if you can pray with her before the bath in specific. This sometimes helps my patients to relax.

Also, if you really want to go all out, you can buy some bath tools, like hand-held massagers, frozen eye masks, cucumber slices for the eyes, foot scrub, play relaxation music from Pandora or youtube or other soothing music while you bathe her. Do a complete "spa", if you will. Get different loofahs and that type of thing.

I hope this helps you and you are able to become a little more comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. Just think of this from her perspective...she probably feels just as uncomfortable as you do!
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Old 12-15-2011, 07:22 AM   #7
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Thank you all so much for your help. We have a small, local medical supply store. I'll see of they have the shampoo cap and gloves. Gloves never crossed my mind!
Victory (over donuts) is not being free of the desire...its having the ability to say NO!!!
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