When someone is diagnosed with dementia, completing some of the most basic tasks — like bathing — can become difficult, strained and time-consuming.
You may find that your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s struggles to shower or bathe like they normally used to. They may refuse or say they’ve already showered, according to the Caregiver Alliance.
Fortunately, bathing every single day isn’t necessary. But you certainly want your loved one to be clean and comfortable, and to shower or take a bath every few days, or at least once or twice a week.
Maintaining hygiene is also important to keep skin clear and healthy, prevent urinary tract infections and keep up with good oral health. There are a few tips you can follow to make bathing with dementia go more smoothly.
It’s All In Your Approach
Bathing is an incredibly personal experience. As someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s progresses, they will require more hands-on help with these types of everyday, personal tasks — like getting dressed, using the bathroom and eating.
For some people with dementia, needing help to bathe or shower may seem like a particularly tough loss of independence. This may make it harder to adjust to the change, the Alzheimer’s Society notes, and may be the reason why they may refuse washing up.
The Alzheimer’s Society states that success in bathing all lies in your approach: It’s important to be sensitive to the patient’s needs, and respect their dignity.
Person-centered care is all about designing a caregiving approach with the knowledge and understanding of the individual’s history, culture, needs and feelings. Keep this in mind as you’re working to keep your loved one comfortable during tasks like bathing.
Whether the person is afraid of the rush of water from an overhead shower, sitting in a bathtub or feeling self-conscious, you’ll want to make the experience as pleasant for them as possible. Find out whether they prefer to shower or wash in a bath, then explain each step of the process gently. You can also find ways to adjust your routine to make your loved one more comfortable. If bathing causes distress, you can try a sponge bath instead.
“We all have our own routines for personal care — particularly when we get up in the morning,” the Alzheimer’s Society writes. “It is important to try to encourage people with dementia to continue with these routines for as long as possible.”
They note that you can help your loved one with dementia have an easier time bathing by figuring out the routines that work best, as this can help them complete tasks “in a way that is as familiar and reassuring as possible.”
Linda Freund produced the video in this article.