One of the more common challenges facing those living with dementia is the issue of bathing and personal care. As the top providers of senior home care Phoenix families need, our dementia caregivers are faced with this challenge on a daily basis. Fortunately, there are tactics you can employ that will turn bathing into a less challenging experience for you, and a more comfortable one for your elder loved one.
Bathing is an intimate experience; the person with dementia may experience it as threatening, embarrassing, or painful, and may exhibit behaviors to express those feelings, such as resisting, screaming, and even hitting. The behaviors occur because the person does not clearly understand the purpose of bathing and may react to unpleasant aspects such as lack of modesty, feeling cold or experiencing discomfort.
Resistance to bathing begins in the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease, when the person has the cognitive capacity of about three years of age. This is important to remember when the person gets upset with bathing. Ask yourself: would a three-year-old get upset with the manner in which I am bathing this person with Alzheimer’s disease? If the answer is yes, then you need to find another strategy!
Effective Dementia Bathing Tips:
- Do everything you can in advance to make the process easier, such as:
- Increase the temperature of the room
- Reduce overhead lighting
- Make sure bath towels, and if possible, a terry cloth robe are nearby
- Provide familiar soap (the type and brand the patient has used in the past)
- Test the temperature of the water
- Help the person feel in control. Allow the person to decide if he or she prefers a bath vs. a shower, and at what time of day the bath is preferred.
- Create a safe and pleasing atmosphere. Provide non-slip adhesives on the floor surface and grab bars in the bathtub to prevent falls and provide security. Provide a pleasant, clean aroma and indirect lighting.
- Respect the person’s dignity. Allow the person to hold a towel in front of the body, both in and out of the shower if desired. This may ease anxiety.
- Don’t worry about the frequency of bathing. It may not be necessary to bathe every day. Sponge baths can be effective between showers and baths.
- Be gentle. The person’s skin may be very sensitive, so avoid scrubbing and pat skin dry instead of rubbing.
- Be flexible. The person may experience the most difficulty when attempting to shower or shampoo the hair. If this is the case, avoid spraying water on the person’s head; use a washcloth to soap and rinse hair, reducing the amount of water on the person’s face.
For more help in easing the challenges of bathing for your loved one with dementia, call on the expert in-home care team at Nightingale Homecare. Our specialized dementia care program, Connections, provides compassionate and creative solutions for some of the more difficult aspects of dementia, including personal hygiene, and we are always available to assist family caregivers to ensure their loved ones receive the highest possible quality care at all times. Call us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more.
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