A sink bath, or basin bath, can be a safe choice for a person who can't move around or walk much. And it's a good time to check their skin for sores or rashes.
The person may want a sink bath every day or a few times a week. Their hair may not need to be washed every time. If you can, try to let the person choose when and how often they bathe.
As you help to undress and bathe the person, try to be relaxed. If you are calm and don't seem embarrassed, the person may feel more comfortable. Give them as much privacy as possible. If they are safe alone for a while and are able to bathe without help, shut the door or close a curtain and step out of the bathroom. But stay close in case they ask for help.
Preparing for a sink bath
When you help someone take a sink bath, start by gathering materials. You will need:
- Washcloths or bath sponges.
- A bar of soap or liquid soap.
- Tear-free shampoo or no-rinse shampoo (if the hair needs to be washed).
Offer the person a robe for comfort and privacy while you set up the supplies. Or they can undress only the part of the body that is being bathed. Set up a shower stool or chair at the sink, or the person can stay in a wheelchair if they use one.
Let the person take off the robe (or uncover the areas to be bathed) but give help if they need it. Remember to use the back of your hand to test the water to make sure it's not too hot or cold. You don't have to wear gloves, but it might be a good idea if the person has been vomiting or has had diarrhea. And it's a good idea to wear a mask if you or the person has an illness that can spread, such as a cold or the flu.
Helping with the sink bath
Put soap on the washcloth or sponge and give it to the person. Let the person do the bathing as much as possible. You can help if there are areas they can't reach. This is just a partial bath, so the person needs to wash only certain parts of the body. It's fine to wash only the face, underarms, and groin and anal areas—in that order. If possible, check the skin for signs of rashes or sores.
After washing with soap, rinse off the soap with a fresh, damp washcloth. Help the person wash their hair if that is part of this bath. Give them a towel to dry off, or put one within reach, and help them dress if they want help.
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Gayle E. Stauffer, RN - Registered Nurse