As any family caregiver to a loved one with dementia knows, regular bathing can be a struggle. The person with Alzheimer’s could regard bathing as scary, uncomfortable, or embarrassing, and therefore physically or verbally protest when it comes time to bathe. These protests can escalate until they become dangerous or upsetting to either the caregiver or the loved one receiving care. Luckily, there are a few tips for dementia caregivers that can make bathing a whole lot easier, and even pleasant.
Take some time to prepare the bathroom in advance. Whether the senior simply needs a reminder to bathe or assistance with the entire process, a little preparation goes a long way. Adjust the room temperature until it’s comfortable for an unclothed person, then lay out soap, shampoo, a shower stool, and large towels to provide plenty of privacy and warmth. A washcloth is particularly useful to cover the senior’s eyes to prevent stinging from soap or shampoo. And don’t forget to check the water temperature frequently; someone with dementia may have difficulty telling when the tub or shower has gotten too hot or too cold.
While every individual will prefer a different bathing routine, here’s a sample routine you can try and then modify to meet a loved one’s needs:
- Give the individual living with dementia options. Ask if she or he wants to bathe now or in a half hour, or let your loved one choose between a shower or a bath.
- If the senior opts for a bath, fill the tub with a few inches of warm water to let him or her test the water out with a hand or foot. If the senior complies, fill the tub all the way up once he or she is safely seated.
- Encourage the individual to take an active role in the bathing process. Let the senior hold a sponge or a bottle of shampoo, and encourage him or her to participate in the bathing process as much as his or her abilities will allow.
- If the senior is afraid of bathing or feeling embarrassed, consider bringing a trusted friend or family member of his or her same gender into the room. If the senior becomes agitated, try a soothing activity like listening to music or singing a song together.
- Prioritize privacy, comfort, and dignity. Always offer your loved one a towel for warmth and for covering up during the bathing process.
There are a few other tips for dementia caregivers that might make bath time with a loved one easier. To prevent confusion, try bathing at the same time every day. Use simple verbal cues and gestures to guide the senior through the bathing process, and step in to help as needed. If bathing every day is simply not realistic, try bathing one part of the body each day, or give the individual a sponge bath when a full bath isn’t feasible.
After-bath care is just as important as bathing. Be sure to check for rashes and sores, and make sure the senior is completely patted dry. Try drying between the toes with cotton swabs, and gently apply lotion all over the body. You may also try using cornstarch or baby powder under the breasts and between folds of skin to prevent chafing.
For additional tips on caring for a loved one with dementia and to learn about the benefits of partnering with an in-home caregiver who can take the stress out of bathing, reach out to Nightingale Homecare . We offer a free in-home consultation so that families can learn more about why we’re one of the premier caregiver agencies in Phoenix AZ. Simply contact us online or give us a call on the phone at (602) 504-1555. For a full list of all of the communities where we provide care, please visit our Service Area page.