baths/methods/nursing, bag bath, end of life, aged, dementia



  1. Lentz, Judy RN, MSN, OCN, NHA


As far back as the Middle Ages, bathing has been a ritualistic pleasure. In more recent times, bathing improves an individual's hygiene and social acceptance. Since Florence Nightingale, nurses and their assistants have considered the traditional bath a daily professional responsibility. In 1994, Skewes introduced an alternative to the traditional bath called a bag bath. This article challenges those who care for bed-bound or demented patients to change their traditional bathing practices and incorporate the bag bath process to improve quality of life. Bathing the bed-bound elderly patient poses risks to skin integrity because of skin dryness and fragility. Bathing the demented patient poses behavior problems associated with fear of the process. The bag bath concept offers relief to these individuals, thereby improving skin integrity, comfort, self-esteem, and quality of life. The use of warm washcloths soaked in a mixture of water and an emollient concentrate to cleanse the skin has been shown to improve patient satisfaction while reducing staff time and savings in labor and supply costs. It is time to consider this alternate daily bathing approach for the bed-bound and demented patient populations, and to replace the torment with comfort at the end of life.