Bathing and Dementia

Bathing brings many discomforts. Bathrooms can feel cold and
drafty when a person is wet. And running water can be noisy. Nudity makes bathing
very intimate, which can be distressing when a modest person needs help and may
not recognize the helper. 

Plus, bathing is a complicated process with many steps in a
specific order. People with dementia may become confused and frustrated. They
also may forget about the purpose of cleanliness.

Here are some tips to ease
bath time:

  • Guard the senses. Sometimes people with dementia are
    hypersensitive. Heat the bathroom ahead of time. Be gentle and avoid scrubbing.
    Check the water for temperature—too hot?—and the water pressure from the shower—too
  • Promote independence. Encourage your loved one to do things
    themselves. If you do need to take over, tell them what you are going to do
    before you do it. And give them a role so they can participate, such as holding
    the soap.
  • Preserve modesty. Even if you are helping a spouse,
    have a towel at the ready for undressing and dressing.
  • Maintain a routine. Most families notice that certain
    times of day are better than others. Bathing at the same time each day may make
    it easier.

Sponge baths work just as well. In terms of hygiene,
all that’s needed is a twice a week wash, and even that can be just the
highlights: armpits, folds of skin (under the breast, on the belly), groin,
genitals, feet. Remember to keep the rest of the body covered with warm towels
to minimize any chill.

Get creative

  • Try singing together. Or play music or old radio shows for
  • Consider using bath
    Warm by putting an open package in the microwave for 10 seconds.
  • Call it “spa time.”
    Use no-rinse soap on moist, warm midsize towels and massage in gently. Wipe off
    with warm, moist washcloths.

Tired of the bathroom battlefield?

As the Metro DC experts in family caregiving, we at Debra Levy Eldercare Associates have developed many strategies and insights that can help you make bath time more pleasant. Make a vote for peace in the household and give us a call at 301-593-5285.