Whether in a home or hospital setting, a patient or client may require a complete bed bath to be conducted. When particular physical conditions lead to patient immobility, a complete bed bath may be required if a patient simply cannot move beyond the confines and limitations of their own bed by themselves. Not only will a bed bath help a patient or family member to feel reinvigorated, but the act of washing even elicits the massaging necessary to increase blood flow and circulation to vital areas of the body. Combined with the warm properties of the water, the increased circulation caused by subtly rubbing a patient's skin can actually be very necessary (and, oftentimes neglected) in medical conditions that could greatly benefit from it.

Conducting a proper complete bed bath will require the right tools, approach, and utmost adherence to the privacy and dignity of a patient. Not only can a patient derive great physical benefits from a bed bath, but this act can also provide a tremendous opportunity for the escalation and reinforcement of the patient client relationship. While some patients may not want to talk, a bed both may provide the perfect setting for you to acquire the information necessary to not only get to know your patient on a personal level, but to also extract information that can help you to better care for them by becoming acquainted with them. Follow the steps in this Info Barrel article in order to best administer a complete bed bath to your patient.

Things You Will Need

  • Towels
  • Wash Cloths
  • Basin of Warm Water
  • Blanket
  • a Sheet
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Mild Soap
  • Powder

Step 1

Whether you are officially a registered nurse, or are a family member who will be caring for a loved one at home, a general rule behind providing effective nursing care is ensuring that you have all your supplies and materials before you begin engaging in a procedure or activity. While you are conducting a complete bed bath, you should first gather up all the supplies you will need. From enema administration to application of a bed bath, having all your materials readily available prior to beginning will keep you from having to abruptly leave the room and subsequently inconveniencing your patient.

Step 2

Whether in a hospital setting, a nursing home, or a patient's home, privacy offered is of utmost importance. While some patients may be indifferent, you will oftentimes find that many patients are self-conscious of both their physical appearance, as well as, their physical condition. As a nurse or care provider, you should go to great lengths to be accommodating to your patient's need for privacy. Generally speaking, you will never go wrong if you approach all your patients in this manner with consideration for their privacy. From closing a bedroom doors, to pull a hospital room's drapes, before you even set up your materials you should ensure to provide the best privacy possible. For a patient on the ground floor of a nursing home or hospital, you may even want to consider closing the windows to their room so that people who walk by do not receive an unintentional peep show.

Step 3

Most hospital or nursing home rooms will come complete with a bed side table or stand where you can lay your bed bath washing supplies. Once you have provided privacy for your patient, be sure to lay out your supplies in a logical manner that progresses with the sequence of your bed bath. Ideally, all of your supplies should be visible, identifiable, and not covered by your blanket or sheet.

Step 4

When conducting a complete bed bath, your patient's preferences are of utmost importance and should be acknowledged. Inquiring about preferences will also help you to establish guidelines and limitations regarding what your patient is comfortable with. While some patients may be indifferent, other patients may be strictly opposed to being washed or touched in their private areas. For a patient with this preference, be sure that you afford them the option and opportunity to conduct their own washing in those particular areas. Another preference of consideration may be with regards to how your patient is actually positioned. Your patient may prefer to lay flat, while other patients may require their head to be elevated as high as possible. Generally speaking, what is comfortable to you may be superseded by a patient's preferences regardless of just how much it would simplify or make the bad bath process easier.

Step 5

When undressing a patient, you will only expose as much skin as necessary to wash one body area while ensuring patient dignity and privacy. For example, rather than expose both legs simultaneously while you are washing one leg, be sure that the opposite remains concealed by a sheet or blanket. Complete exposure to any limb, while you are washing a patient's opposite limb, can cause a patient to become cool and uncomfortable. When this occurs, many patients may be too polite to tell your that they are cold, and this could inherently contribute to tighten of blood vessels and decrease in peripheral circulation. With increased blood flow as a major goal of a complete bed bath, all considerations that may affect a patient's core body temperature should be addressed throughout the procedure.

Step 6

While some nurses will use a washcloth against a patient's skin with no specific methodology, others may find it beneficial to wrap their hand with the washcloth in a mitten-like manner. Not only can creating a mitten help to streamline the 'feel' of your washcloth against your patient's skin, but it also will help to essentially make the mitten at one with your own hand while producing greater exposed mitten surface area. With potentially compromised skin conditions, excess washcloth exposure can also cause subtle skin break down when the loose ends of your wash cloth run rampant against your patient's skin.

Step 7

With your washcloth in place, you will now simultaneously wet your washcloth and apply soap. A mild bar or liquid soap may be applied directly into the warm water of the basin, or you may soak your washcloth first and apply the soap directly to your washcloth. Either way will be sure to work. Be sure, however, that when wetting your washcloth that you strike a delicate balance between very wet and very dry. While you don't want your washcloth to be soaking wet, you do want for it to be wet enough to effectively produce a soapy lather.

Step 8

While your patient may have a preference for which body part or area that you will begin washing first, generally the face is washed first. Take note of your patient's skin condition, as well as, any deviations from normal. Pay particular attention to outgrowths on the skin, such as warts or moles. If moles are present, be sure to also take notice of their color, shape, and texture. If you are familiar with your patient, compare these observations to what you may have observed while washing them in the past.

Soap is generally not used on a patient's face, however, it won't hurt to use a little. If a patient has already reddened skin as the result of irritated acne or eczema, you will want to refrain from using soap because it may further dry and irritate your patient's skin. Your patient may also be given the option to wash their own face, which can inherently instill a sense of control and autonomy over their own care. So long as they are able to do their own washing, many patients typically appreciate the gesture of being allowed to participate in their own care. Making this allowance can also instill good health practices and procedures.

Step 9

Whether you wash a patient's face first, or last, be sure to dry it off with a towel. Looming water can lead to skin breakdown that occurs with time as residual soap and water begin to infiltrate the crevices of a patient's skin. Using a towel to pat dry each area, immediately upon completion of washing, is absolutely imperative to promoting proper maintenance of skin integrity.

Step 10

When washing, a logical progression from one body part to the next is important. Upon completion of face washing (had you chosen to do it first), you will move to one of the patient's arms. While one arm is uncovered, you will keep the patient's chest and remaining arm covered. In order to promote blood flow and circulation to your patient's extremities, you should assume long strokes from your patient's shoulder to their wrist. When washing your patient, you should really try to visualize how your washing strokes impact arterial blood flow, especially in those patients with compromised blood flow that could benefit the most from this consideration.

Coupled with the vessel dilating effects of warm water, your washing strokes and massaging can really help to reinforce and promote circulation in your patient.

Step 11

While there is not set rule regarding water changing, you should conduct this change at least 2-3 times during the course of a bed bath. Even though your patients will diverge in cleanliness, water can easily become dirty and ultimately make for an unpleasant experience. With the genital area typically washed last, had you decided to wash this area earlier in your bed bath, you will certainly change out the bath water before proceeding to another location.

Tips & Warnings

Administering a complete bed bath will give a nurse or care provider an awesome opportunity to, not only get to know a patient, but to also collect visual data regarding the integrity and deviations of a patient's skin condition. Be sure to take particular mental note of any irregularities that you observe. Cracks, breaks, warts or moles can progress in a negative manner if not addressed early on in a patient's care.

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