It is quite common for people with dementia to resist or forget about personal care and hygiene. The reasons that sufferers of dementia resist bathing are many. They may feel depressed about their condition and not motivated to care for themselves. The process of bathing might feel too complex or burdensome. They may simply forget to bathe or may fear slipping or having hot water put on them.
There are a number of strategies you can implement to help the person manage their hygiene.
Ensure the shower and bath are safe and comfortable
Concerns about getting hurt or being uncomfortable in the tub may keep your loved from bathing.
Some strategies to make your loved one feel safe and comfortable:
- Add a grab bar, stool, hand-held shower head, and non-slip mat or decals
- Make sure the bathroom is warm enough
- Provide adequate lighting in the bathroom, especially during evening hours
- Play soft music in the background to create a calming and relaxing atmosphere
- Clearly tell your loved one what you are doing step-by-step
Provide privacy for washing and dressing
Washing and dressing are usually private activities, and your parent may feel embarrassed about getting naked and being bathed by another person.
Some strategies to lessen the embarrassment of needing help:
- Cover them with a bath blanket or towel while they undress
- Allow them to do as much cleaning as they are capable of, and only lend a hand when it’s needed
- Close blinds, curtains, and doors to create more privacy
- Approach the person with a great deal of reassurance and patience
Establish a routine
A bath isn’t necessary for everyone every day. Talk with your loved one to decide what works best for them.
Some strategies to create a bathing routine:
- Choose the best time of day for bathing – try to match the person’s bathing routine before the onset of the dementia
- Bathe at the time of day when the person is most relaxed
- Between showers or baths, use products like dry shampoo, which can keep your parent’s hair clean longer, or sponge baths, so that the process is less invasive and quicker.
Make bathing simpler
Getting undressed, washing, and brushing teeth can become complex tasks because of the many steps involved.
Some strategies to make the process simpler:
- Break down the process into smaller steps, gently explaining each step and using simple, respectful language
- Offer the person limited choices, for example: “Would you like to have a bath or a shower?” or “Would you like to have your bath now or before going to bed?”
- Encourage the person to do as much as possible themselves
Helping you through the process
Oasis Senior Advisors can provide you with support and guidance when you feel it’s time for your loved one to move to assisted living. We offer resources for seniors and their families, so you can feel confident in your senior housing selection.