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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Bathing and Showering Tips

March 2021 | Natalie Rivera, OTS and Katie Frank, PhD, OTR/L - Occupational therapy student and occupational therapist

Bathing and showering may be difficult for some individuals with Down syndrome for many reasons. Below are a variety of adaptive strategies and equipment to promote safety and independence with this self-care task. 

long-handled sponge or a washcloth with handles can help individuals clean all areas of their body independently, including those that are hard to reach or not visible. 

washcloth with handles and long-handled sponge

Placing laminated "hot" and "cold" labels inside your shower can allow individuals to adjust the water temperature with ease and increased safety.

labels with arrows to indicate cold water and hot water

Nail polish or tape can be used to indicate where to turn the shower knob to in order to reach an ideal temperature.

visual showing where to turn the shower knob to for desired water temperature

Labeling bottles based on what they are used for is beneficial for those who cannot read or distinguish the difference when showering or bathing.

labels for bottles with pictures based on use (shampoo, body wash)

Using a 3-in-1 soap eliminates the need for the individual to distinguish the difference between shampoo, conditioner, and body wash bottles. It also makes for fewer steps while showering or bathing.

3-in-1 soap

Pump dispensers are an option for individuals with decreased upper extremity strength to eliminate the need to lift and squeeze large bottles. They can also help with quantity for individuals who use too much or too little soap.

pump dispensers for shampoo, conditioner, and soap

A shower chair is an option for individuals with poor balance or endurance to promote safety while showering.

white shower chair

tub transfer bench is an option for individuals who lack flexibility and balance to safely step over the bathtub.

tub transfer bench

Grab bars can be installed in the shower for individuals with decreased balance for extra safety measures.

grab bars for shower or tub

non-slip mat can be placed inside or outside the shower to prevent falls.

non-slip mat outside shower

A handheld shower head allows individuals to position the water flow exactly where they need it while sitting or standing. For those with sensory needs, a handheld shower head will make it easier to readily adjust the water pressure. For those who are aging, it can help with visual perceptual changes in order for them to see where the water is coming from to make showers less scary.

handheld shower head

towel warmer is beneficial for individuals with sensory needs who strongly dislike feeling cold after exiting the bathtub or shower.

towel warmer

robe can be used to dry off after showering or bathing for individuals who dislike the texture or feeling of drying off with a bath towel.

white bathrobe

Loofah gloves can be used to exfoliate skin. They can also be used by those with sensory needs who dislike the feeling of soap or other products on their hands. 

loofah gloves

shower cap is an option for individuals with sensory needs who dislike getting their head wet. This makes it easier to still shower or bathe every day without washing their hair every day.

shower cap

Having a fogless mirror in the shower is beneficial for individuals who lack thoroughness when washing or rinsing parts of their bodies. For example, having a mirror can ensure the shampoo is thoroughly rinsed from their hair.

fogless mirror

Goggles or bath visors are options for those who strongly dislike or fear getting water into their eyes while showering or bathing.

goggles and bath visor

Ear plugs or a neoprene headband are options for those with ear tubes or those who want to avoid getting water in their ears.

ear plugs and neoprene headband

Using a scalp scrubber can help individuals thoroughly scrub their head when washing their hair.

scalp scrubber

Having a timer or playlist can prevent individuals from bathing or showering for too long or not long enough.

timer and music note

Utilizing a step-by-step visual support can allow individuals to be independent and thorough with this task, ensuring that no steps are missed.

step-by-step visual support for showering


More Resources

Tips for Washing and Rinsing Hair in the Shower

Create a Showering or Bathing Routine Visual

All self-care and hygiene resources in our online library

Find More Resources

We offer a variety of resources for people with Down syndrome, their families and caregivers and the professionals who care for and work with them. Search our collection of articles, webinars, videos, and other educational materials.

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Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.