How to Take a Bath

Someone is looking at today’s subject and saying “You are @#X&ing kidding me.”  I promise, this is no joke.  When you have a chronic illness that limits your energy or mobility or both, common chores of personal care can be devilishly difficult.  I took a bath this morning, thus moving myself into the “cleanest girl in the house” category.  Currently my only competitor is the dachshund, Lucy, so I hold that title most days, but it was used with some significance when I was a kid, the next to the last of six daughters.  Anyway, I digress from the tutorial.

My biggest rule about chores like this is to do it the same every time.  Following a routine that is well thought-out is helpful in preventing injuries.  Force yourself to stick to the plan without hurrying or improvising.  Bathrooms are made of hard, slippery materials, and injuries incurred in them tend to be very tough knocks, potentially fatal ones. 

The second rule to cling to is to check your energy first.  If you don’t have enough energy to complete this task, don’t start it.  Bathing is not something you can stop in the middle.  Running out of steam while you’re in the tub and the water is getting cold is no fun.  Neither is taking a break by sitting on the bathroom floor until you can crawl or creep to somewhere more comfortable.  If you can’t manage the full bath, there’s always a “bird bath” in the sink, or some judicious attention to critical places with a few baby wipes.  You won’t be disgusting if soap doesn’t reach your ankles every day. 

Once you are in for the task, remind yourself that a bath can also be therapeutic.  The warm water has relaxing, healing properties, especially if painful joints are part of your daily life.  Plan to spend an extra five or ten minutes beyond what it takes to actually clean yourself.  Place your telephone, book, mp3 player, and other necessities within easy reach of the tub. 

This is how I approach the tub.  I stand next to it, turned sideways, with my right leg against the tub.  I lean forward and place both hands on the side of the tub.  Holding on firmly, I lift my right leg over the side and place my foot into the tub.  Now I change my right hand, moving it over to grip the other side of the tub.  I hold on firmly again, one hand on either side of the tub, balancing on my right leg as I lift my left leg up and over.  Still holding on, I lower myself to one knee (whichever one is better or less painful that day), then down to a sitting position.   At all times I have at least three stable points.  I’m never holding on to something shaky, like the towel rack.  I am keeping my center of gravity in the center of the three stable points.  I move slowly and deliberately.  It can be disaster to quickly put weight on a very tender joint, with either collapse or over-reacting producing a fall.  It can also be disaster to find that you are momentarily light-headed from medication, and don’t have a good grip on anything. 

While you are in the tub, be flexible and creative.  If a movement hurts, don’t force it.  You can clean yourself just as easily laying on your side as perched on your knees.  Invest in a soft bath sponge or brush with a long handle so you don’t have to strain and contort to reach your back and your feet.  Remember, energy saved here means spoons for later.   (See the post “A Challenge” on January 4, 2008.)

Getting out of the tub is a reversal of the getting in movements, not a bit less deliberate.  Don’t get careless just because the task is almost over.  Be sure you are stepping out onto a secure, slip-proof surface.  Have your towel in easy reach where you don’t strain to grab it.  Sit down to dry your feet rather than hopping around on one leg. 

Okay, the bath is done.  I’m ready for knitting.  My fingers need a break from size 1 needles and tight stitches, so I’m setting down my sock this morning and working on a child’s sweater in South West Trading Company’s Gianna.  Gianna is soft and bulky, 50% soy and 50% wool, in bright, clear colors.  I ordered a bag at a tremendous discount from an on-line closeout company.  (Yes, you can do that, too!)  I have not used this yarn before, so I’ll be exploring for gauge and pattern.  Fun! 

A blog headline caught my eye as I was getting started this morning.  You HAVE to read this woman’s explanation for how knitting socks helps the economy.  I am feeling downright patriotic!  Go to  and look at her February 6 post.  You will understand that I am not just being a selfish, luxury-seeking dilettante when I insist on hand-knitting my socks. 



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