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HomeHealthHow To Get Dementia Patients To Shower

How To Get Dementia Patients To Shower

How Often Should An Elderly Person Bathe

How To Get A Person Living with Dementia To Take A Shower

Make sure you are setting realistic bathing expectations for seniors.

Many healthy adults tend to assume that daily bathing should be the norm. But truthfully, just bathing once or twice a week may be just fine for an elderly senior, especially if they are less active and supplement their weekly baths with wet cloth wipe-downs.

Many elderly seniors grew up only bathing once or twice a week, as that was usually the norm for them. Especially as they get older and potentially begin to deteriorate mentally, regressing to a routine that was normal for them in their childhood may be easier for them to manage.

Disruption Of Daily Routine

Most people go through their day following a schedulethey keep mental notes of certain rules and regulations to be followed by themwhich keeps them alert and aware throughout the day and helps them to get things done even when they are tired.

A decline in a persons cognition breaks this flow and they find themselves lost and isolated from events of the world around them.

Unable to remember the most important daily activities, their decision-making muscle gets weak and they avoid doing anything that is uncomfortable.

Why Do Alzheimers Patients Stop Bathing

It can help you as a caregiver to understand the feelings and experiences of someone with Alzheimers. Many people who have it will stop bathing themselves completely. Why does this happen? Alzheimers and other dementias can cause people to find bathing disagreeable. This is because of some of the experiences they are going through, such as:

  • A loss of remembrance on the purpose of bathing
  • Sensitivity to water and air temperature when undressed
  • Sensitivity to water pressure

Also, the person can have trouble with depending on someone else, a lack of privacy and having enough patience to get through the bathing process.

When does this happen? Its common for people to bathe less during stage 5 of dementia. During stage 6, they tend to stop bathing when they no longer understand the need.

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Prepare Before Bath Time

Start by preparing the bathroom so the bathing process can be more seamless. This step includes activities like gathering the needed supplies, such as soap and a washcloth. Also, create a comfortable atmosphere through a warm room and possibly relaxing music. When youre ready to start, make the request for the person to bathe seem nonchalant.

Bathing Dressing And Grooming: Alzheimer’s Caregiving Tips

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At some point, people with Alzheimers disease will need help bathing, combing their hair, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed. Because these are private activities, people may not want help. They may feel embarrassed about being naked in front of caregivers. They also may feel angry about not being able to care for themselves. These suggestions may help with everyday care.

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Remind Them Of The Doctors Orders

Your loved ones doctor is a great resource. Your physician can help you to discover if depression is a factor and if antidepressants may provide relief and increase your loved ones energy levels. Having a renewed zeal for life will make self-care more likely, and make him/her more aware of hygiene needs.

Also, your doctor can rule out other factors that may affect a dementia patients ability and/or willingness to care for themselves and accept assistance to do so. Your doctor can give you valuable tips on how to better care for your loved one.

Bear in mind that an elderly person often respects doctors and are more likely to follow their recommendations over your pleading. So use whatever works!

Possible Causes For Refusing To Change Clothes

Understanding what could be causing someones refusal to change clothes can help you find an approach that works.

It also gives some perspective on the situation and can help you realize that your older adult isnt doing this on purpose.

1. Impaired memory or judgement

  • Forgets that they havent changed clothes in a long time or thinks that they changed recently
  • Forgets that the clothes are dirty after taking them off
  • Is no longer making good choices

2. Need for control

  • Insists on independently making their own choices even if their judgement is impaired

3. Need for comfort and security

  • Is comforted by the familiarity or routine of wearing the same clothing

4. Struggles with everyday tasks

  • Is overwhelmed by the choices and steps needed to get dressed
  • Has difficulty with the physical motions required to dress and undress
  • Has body aches and pains or being easily fatigued makes changing clothes and/or doing laundry too difficult

5. Feeling overstimulated or uncomfortable

  • Avoids clothing items that have distracting patterns or colors, difficult fasteners, or uncomfortable fit

6. Weakened or dulled senses

  • Cant smell the odors caused by wearing soiled clothing
  • Doesnt notice or see stains or dirt

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Why Won’t Alzheimers & Dementia Patients Take Showers

So first a little background about me I take a shower every day! I love showers and have washed myself everyday since I can remember. My shower is filled with pretty smelling soaps and gels oh and I get away from my 3 kids, 2 dogs, 2 cats and the turtle in there. It is my super special alone place.

Well, come to find out, many people, especially older people, don’t have that same feeling about a shower. My friend Tena D who is from South Dakota said they never took showers as children and there was only one bath day

Saturday night! They would fill the tub, everyone would hop in and out, warming the water occasionally and bam, clean for the week.

Come to think of it, my Mother, who died in her late 50s and who would have been 80 now did weekly bath thing she never showered.

Doh. No wonder Mom won’t take a shower she may have never showered before in her life.

Even though it would be SO MUCH EASIER, the thought of a shower is super foreign to her!

Whats The Best Way To Get A Dementia Patient Into The Shower

How to help someone with dementia shower with dignity

The elderly may not always like the idea of taking showers or baths. This is especially true for those with Alzheimers disease or another kind of dementia. They may have irrational fears, as they may believe that their caregivers will hurt them, or even that the water is dangerous. Therefore, its usually difficult to get them to engage in any personal hygiene activities, as they may be very fearful or resistant. So lets explore the best way to get a dementia patient into the shower.

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How Do You Get Someone With Alzheimers To Take A Shower

The only way then to get an Alzheimers patient to take a shower is to use a handheld detach from the wall and let it hang down. While using it, aim in at the floor or away from the patient. In most cases, you will end up helping the patient take the shower. The patients may be uncomfortable at first but there are ways to make them comfortable. Otherwise, they will not take a shower on their own.

Understand that it may be embarrassing for them, so have patience. Sometimes someone who has Alzheimers and is being bathed by someone else will slip and forget why they are in a bath with someone, and it could even cause them to be sexually inappropriate, so be prepared for that possibility.

Use The Right Bathing Aids And Products To Maximize Comfort

Specially designed senior bathing aids and products can be a game changer as well. For example, if you can still get a loved one in the shower, but they arent steady on their feet or tire easily, there are many types of shower chairs available. This is a wise choice for anyone who is getting older, because it can significantly decrease the risk of falling in the shower. A hand-held shower head can be useful for bathing a loved one who is afraid of or overwhelmed by water. It allows them to direct the stream only where they want it and when. Grab bars are another must-have for those who are afraid of falling. Simply having extra points of support can help a senior navigate getting into and out of the shower safely and confidently.

Read:Bathing & Hygiene Top Tips: Promoting Comfort and Cooperation

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Establish A Weekly Routine

I read on the Alzheimer Association website they suggest that having a routine for bathing would be a good idea. I agree it would and we do this with our kids. We simple say, time for your shower to our kids and they trot right into the bathroom and get clean.

Now, this might work for your loved one, and what makes giving advice about Alzheimers so hard! The way they said this so happy like, I thought that would be great. We would just get into a routine of every other day or every third day and BAM, good to go! This did not work for my Mom at all. She honestly couldn’t give a crap about what day it is and that it was time for her bird bath or shower.

That said, because Alzheimer and dementia patients live so much in the past, if they grew up with a Saturday Bath routine you might be able to get them to wash up every Saturday pretty easily!

Activities Of Daily Living

Why Won

One way of looking at assisting with activities of daily living is to think of them as opportunities to spend more quality time with the person. Performing ADLs is basic to ones sense of dignity, autonomy, and mastery. Loss of these abilities can lead to frustration, embarrassment and a sense of inadequacy. In addition, fear and frustration associated with ADLs are the source of most difficult behaviors. For these reasons, it is extremely important that caregivers approach ADLs with understanding and compassion, as this will go a long way toward preventing difficult behaviors and improving the quality of life for the caregiver and care recipient.

If handled well caregivers can help those with dementia express their independence and build their self-esteem through ADLs.

In addition, fear and frustration associated with ADLs are the source of most difficult behaviors. For these reasons, it is extremely important that caregivers approach ADLs with understanding and compassion, as this will go a long way toward preventing difficult behaviors and improving the quality of life for the caregiver and care recipient.

If handled well, caregivers can help those with dementia express their independence and build their self-esteem through ADLs.

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Physical Bathing Environment: Entering And Exiting Bathtubs

Assisting someone to get in and out of a bathtub can be very challenging if the person has limited mobility. To help with stability and leverage, one or more grab bars should be installed near the bathtub. If the bathtub is low, the person may be able to step over while holding onto a grab bar with one hand and being assisted by the caregiver with the other arm and hand. If the bathtub is higher, the person may be able to sit on the edge while a caregiver assists her or him to swing the legs over the edge one at a time.

A transfer bench can be used to ease transfers in and out of the tub. To get in, the person sits on the part of the bench outside the tub and slides over and into the tub, using grab bars and caregiver assistance.

Getting out of the bathtub is harder than getting in, because the person is wet and sitting down with legs out in front. The person will need to hold a grab bar or overhead trapeze and have assistance to rise up.

If there is concern for falls while getting out of the tub, let the water drain out first and avoid using bath oils that will make the tub slippery.

A sling seat that fits over the sides of the bathtub allows the person to sit nearly level with the tubs edge. This can make it easier to get in and out of the bathtub, but limits the opportunity for a good soak in the water.

How To Inspire A Dementia Patient To Shower

This blog post may be of interest to those struggling to get someone with dementia to shower.

Many in the Alzheimers community will know of Bob DeMarco, who cared for his mother with AD. This July 2017 article is from Bobs website, The Alzheimers Reading Room. Of course the suggestions offered apply to all types of dementia, not just Alzheimers. The full text is copied below.

Theres also an 11-minute podcast, which is basically Bob reading this article. On the YouTube page of the podcast, Bob lists several resources that deepen the content of the podcast/article. Ive copied below those additional resources.


How to Inspire a Dementia Patient to ShowerThe Alzheimers Reading RoomBy Bob DeMarcoJuly 17, 2017

Getting an Alzheimers patient to shower can be difficult. In order to accomplish this mission you will need to learn how to be a guide, how to use bright light, and how to use positive reinforcement.

Thousands of caregivers and dementia professionals have used these techniques and they work.

My mother usually resisted when I asked her to take a shower for years. When she occasionally said something other than NO, I looked to the heavens as if it was a reward.

It took me quite a long time to figure out what to do and how to properly motivate my mom so she would take the shower without resistance.

1. Constant positive reinforcement about the positive effects of being clean.

Put it this way bright light, bright mom.

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Compromise Is The Key To Better Senior Hygiene

The hygiene issue is one of many instances in caregiving where compromise is essential. The thing to remember about cleanliness is that you may have to lower your standards. Undoubtedly, it is a difficult and undesirable adjustment, especially if you and your loved one live together.

Caregiving and aging are not glamorous, and there are some changes, such as incontinence, that both parties must simply learn to deal with as best as they can. Do not expect or insist on a pristine appearance. Its often unrealistic and will only lead to more frustration and tension between you. Taking a loved one to a doctors appointment or on an outing looking disheveled and smelling dirty is embarrassing, but do your best to encourage and help your loved one look nice and stay clean. If your current approach isnt working, then its time to consider trying something new.

Its All In Your Approach

Caregiver Training: Refusal to Bathe | UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care

Bathing is an incredibly personal experience. As someone with dementia or Alzheimers 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 Alzheimers Society notes, and may be the reason why they may refuse washing up.

The Alzheimers Society states that success in bathing all lies in your approach: Its important to be sensitive to the patients needs, and respect their dignity.

Person-centered care is all about designing a caregiving approach with the knowledge and understanding of the individuals history, culture, needs and feelings. Keep this in mind as youre 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, youll 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.

Linda Freund produced the video in this article.

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Strategies For Towel Or Sponge Baths

In a towel or sponge bath, a caregiver uses a basin of soapy water and a towel or sponge to carefully wash the person, who may be sitting or lying down. Usually after the body has been soaped and gently scrubbed, the soap is rinsed or wiped off. A small hair-washing basin can be used to thoroughly rinse hair after shampooing. Using tear-free soaps/shampoos can be more comfortable for the person .

Soaps and shampoos should be carefully rinsed off, as these can dry and irritate the skin if not removed. Because thoroughly rinsing off the soap can be difficult, there are soap and shampoo products that do not require a rinse process. Such soaps and shampoos can be applied, and the excess wiped off without rinsing.

During the bath, be patient and reassuring. Try to maintain the persons modesty by covering the parts of the body that are not being washed. For example, if you are washing one arm, cover the rest of the body with a bath blanket, towel, sheet, or robe.

Additionally, towel or sponge baths can be broken up into smaller components that may be more manageable for the care recipient or caregiver. For example, the arms and upper body may be washed one day. The following day, the lower body, legs and feet can be washed. And on another day, the hair can be shampooed. The caregiver should try to be flexible about what the care recipient is able or willing to do that day.


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