Caring for a loved one with dementia can be difficult, depending on how advanced the condition is and the symptoms they are experiencing. Often, people with dementia may become confused, frustrated, or even scared, leading them to act out or become stubborn.
As a caregiver, you’ve likely experienced a situation like this. Though older adults experiencing dementia can have extreme emotional reactions for a variety of reasons, personal hygiene routines like bathing can be a common catalyst.
Bathing is a very intimate and private activity, and this habit is deeply ingrained in people with dementia. Even though they might need help to clean themselves and prevent infections, it doesn’t mean accepting the help they need is easy or pleasant.
An emotional outburst at bath time isn’t fun for anyone. Follow these simple tips to make bathing your loved one with dementia a bit easier, for your sake as well as theirs.
1. Create a Routine
People with dementia can become distressed or confused when their routine is interrupted. That’s why you should make bathing a regular part of their routine that they come to expect.
If they know a shower or bath takes place at the same time each day or every other day, they will feel much less anxiety and stress when you let them know it’s time to bathe. This also means that your family member is less likely to resist or refuse bathing.
2. Make the Bathroom Inviting
Many things about the bathroom make it much less comfortable or enticing than a bedroom or cozy living room. The cold tile or bright white walls might give your loved one an unpleasant reaction, making them averse to bathing.
Try to mitigate this by making the bathroom feel more inviting. Use a space heater to warm up the tiles and cover any cool surfaces with a towel. If your family member with dementia used to love visiting the spa, you could even play some relaxing music.
3. Add Tools to Reduce Effort
Adding accessories to your bathing routine that make it easier on the individual with dementia will make the process smoother for everyone involved. This is especially true for those with mobility issues who have trouble standing or walking.
Shower chairs and benches are a great tool to incorporate into bath time for people with dementia. You may also want to invest in a shower transfer bench, which allows a person to slide into the shower or bathtub while remaining seated. Not only do these add-ons make shower time easier, but they also make it safer by reducing the risk of slipping and falling.
4. Use Positive Reinforcements and Associations
If your loved one continues to resist taking a bath, offering a reward after bath time may help to motivate them. Instead of arguing with them or trying to explain why they need a bath, focus on the tasty treat or fun activity they’ll get to enjoy after the bath is over. This way, even if bath time is frustrating or stressful, they’ll have a positive experience to look forward to later.
5. Switch to a Hand-Held Showerhead
Dementia can make previously simple tasks seem scary and confusing, and showering under a standard showerhead is a perfect example. If your loved one becomes distressed when they sit or stand under a showerhead, replace it with a handheld alternative. They will be able to see and understand exactly where the water is coming from, and you’ll likely have better control over the water pressure.
6. Avoid Any Surprises
Maybe you’ve gotten your loved one with dementia on a regular schedule when it comes to bathing, but you ran out of their favorite shampoo, or the towels they like are still in the hamper. Altering even the simplest parts of your routine could cause a dementia patient to become upset, so do your best to keep every part of your loved one’s bathing practice consistent each time.
7. Ask for Feedback
If you feel your family member can provide constructive feedback, don’t hesitate to ask for it. They may be able to give you important insight into what’s making bathtime so difficult, allowing you to take steps to make it more comfortable for them.
Patience Is Key for Individuals with Dementia
If your family member is adjusting to dementia symptoms, they can find a new normal and become more comfortable with their day-to-day routines. The most important step is staying patient as they learn to understand and live with their symptoms.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.