Bathing Tips for Stroke Survivors

Updated:Mar 6,2015

Getting Ready

  • Take a shower instead of a bath if you can. Showers are safer than tubs. You are less likely to fall while getting in or out of a shower.
  • If you must take a bath, place a special bathtub seat at the rim of the tub. This will make it safer and easier to get in and out of the tub.
  • Use a bath bench to make showering and bathing easier. A few styles are available. Check a local pharmacy for options.
  • Have grab bars installed to make movement easier.
  • Use bathmats with suction cups to avoid slipping. Add non-skid strips in a tub or shower.
  • Make sure you have all the soap, washcloths and towels you need.
  • Test the water temperature with your wrist before getting in.
  • Make sure someone is nearby to help you if needed. Keep a bell handy or have another way to call for help.

Adaptive Aids

  • A hand-held shower head with hose makes it easier to wash your underarms and private areas.
  • Use a long-handled brush or wash mitten with a strap to scrub hard-to-reach parts of your body.
  • Put a bar of soap in a nylon stocking and tie the end of the nylon to a grab bar.
  • Buy liquid soap in pump bottles. It's handy for getting soap on the washcloth.
  • Use plastic bottles with flip-top lids for shampoo and cream rinse.
  • Try using thin terry cloth washcloths. They are less expensive and easier to manage than thicker washcloths.
  • Put on slipper-socks with non-skid soles after your shower. Check local department, discount or sporting goods stores for beach or aqua socks.

Washing and Skin Care

  • To wash your strong arm, sit on a bath bench, put a soapy washcloth between your knees and move your arm back and forth over the washcloth.
  • After a bath or shower, instead of drying off your entire body, put on a terry cloth robe and a pair of slipper socks. You'll be dry in minutes.
  • Once you are dry, gently rub on lotion to prevent your skin from drying out. Begin by sitting down and squeezing some lotion onto your thigh. Then use your strong hand to apply the lotion to the rest of your body.
  • To apply moisturizing lotion to your strong hand, squeeze the lotion into the palm of your affected hand. Then rub the back of your strong hand into that lotion-bearing palm.
  • Keep your body clean, soft and dry. If skin gets sore or irritated, apply a cream, lotion or petroleum jelly.
  • Use an empty roll-on deodorant bottle as a handy container for lotion, cologne or after-shave.
  • To prevent the spread of infections, rashes or athlete's foot, always use cotton swabs when applying ointments.

When Doing Transfers in the Bathroom
Practice transfers with your therapist first. That way, you and your caregiver can be confident of your abilities.

  • Prepare the area. Gather everything you need ahead of time.
  • Lock the brakes on your wheelchair and move the footrests out of the way.
  • Plan ahead and move slowly. Be careful of slipping when wet.
  • Talk to your caregiver. Communicate what you are going to do.
  • Support your weight as much as you can.
  • Position yourself carefully.
  • Be sure you can see where you are going.
  • Your assistant should stand close to you, with feet slightly apart. Caregivers must be careful not to lose their balance or hurt themselves.
  • If you must take a bath, leave the water in the tub until after you've climbed out. The buoyancy will help lift you.
Additional tips for daily activities:

This content was last reviewed on 03/18/2013.

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Find a Support Group

Seeking support from others who've experienced stroke can be a huge benefit to recovery. Stroke groups afford the opportunity to share feelings, ideas and resources.  Find a group in your area.

Seeking support from others who've experienced stroke can be a huge benefit to recovery. Stroke groups afford the opportunity to share feelings, ideas and resources.  Find a group in your area.

If there is not a support group in your area, or if getting to one is just to difficult, connecting with others online is a great option.

Although everyone at the ASA's national call center is qualified to answer questions about stroke, the Warmline team members have some particularly special experience; either they are stroke survivors themselves or have a family member who is.

Call 1-888-4-STROKE
(1-888-478-7653) to reach the Warmline Team