Home > Caregivers, Dignity, Hygeine/grooming, Safety > Steps to Better Bathing

Steps to Better Bathing

Anyone who has cared for a person with dementia knows that bathing is often a very difficult experience, for everyone involved.  Here are some tips that I found at http://www.thiscaringhome.org that may help.

Reasons a person may resist taking a bath include fear of water, discomfort from drafts, embarrassment, fear of falling, pain when moving, and confusion.  Because the brain with dementia perceives things differently, the person may not recognize the sound of running water and become afraid.  Or he may be afraid of slipping.  He may be overly sensitive to moving air coming from the air conditioner, or he may be too embarrassed to be seen naked.  He may think he has already bathed that day, or may have actually forgotten how to take a bath.  Here are some suggestions that may help:

Get everything ready before you bring the person into the room.  Make sure the room is nice and warm, windows are closed, and the air conditioner vents are closed.  A bath mat on the floor means the person doesn’t have to walk on cold tiles with bare feet.  Make sure the water is nice and warm, too.

Set the right mood.  Turn on the person’s favorite music — not too loud, though.  Put out some nice inviting towels and washcloths, and think about spraying something nice and fragrant in the air.  Putting a towel on the bath seat will make it warmer and more inviting, and probably safer as well.

Be sure to set out all your supplies beforehand.  Use nice, gentle soaps, and make sure the products are all easily identifiable.  Remove any unnecessary items to cut down on distractions.

Timing is essential.  Does the person prefer to bathe in the morning, or right before bed?  Be sure to choose a time when the person is feeling calm, and don’t make him feel as if he’s being rushed.  Use a gentle and inviting demeanor.  And if, despite all your efforts, the person just isn’t having it, try again later.

Be sure to respect the person’s privacy, especially if he is easily embarrassed.  Make sure the door is closed.   Give him a nice bathrobe, or a large towel that he can wrap around himself.  If it is safe to do so, consider turning your back while he washes.  If not, help him out in a calm and matter-of-fact way, as quickly as possible.  If he absolutely won’t take his clothes off, go ahead and shower him with them on.  He may take them off after they’re wet, and at least he’ll be a little bit cleaner than he was before.

Consider how you get the person into the tub.  If he has trouble stepping over the edge of the tub, consider a walk-in shower or a tub bench.  An occupational therapist can recommend the best method for your loved one.

Instead of allowing a shower to spray the person’s face at full force, which might cause alarm, consider using a hand-held shower head with a gentle spray.  Start with the feet and legs, allowing him to get used to the water.  Talking softly and confidently, move up the body, explaining carefully exactly what you will be doing.

Allow the person to do as much of the bath as he can, only doing for him as much as is necessary.  Ask permission to address the private areas, but by all means do wash these parts.  Use a lot of praise as you go along, and keep the mood light and positive.

After the bath is over, wrap the person up in a towel or bathrobe.  Have him sit on the toilet seat or a chair while you gently pat him dry.  Take this opportunity to do a skin check, and apply powder and lotions.  Have the person’s clothes ready, and use a hair dryer that makes as little noise as possible.  Be sure to congratulate the person, and maybe have a nice snack when you’re done.

Remember, do what you can to make bathing a shared activity that you both enjoy, instead of a chore that you both dread.  A little imagination, and some planning ahead of time, can help in this.  And, when it’s done, consider indulging in a nice hot bubble bath yourself!

 

 

 

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