Bathing with Dementia

[shs-video url=’’]

It’s not uncommon for a senior suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s to become resistant to bathing. It’s also very frustrating for a caregiver. Today we’re gonna talk about a few tips to handle bathing with a senior who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Welcome to The Senior Circle, where we hope to inspire and help others by providing valuable relevant information related to caring for an elderly loved one. Hi, my name is Dawn Neely and I’ll be your host. Thank you for joining us.

People with dementia may become resistant to bathing. Such behavior often occurs because the person doesn’t remember what bathing is for and doesn’t have the patience to endure lack of modesty, being cold or other discomforts. Loss of independence and privacy can be very difficult for the person with dementia. The disease also may increase sensitivity to water temperature or pressure.

Don’t take disruptive behaviors personally. Remaining flexible, patient and calm will serve you best as you try some of the tips we share today.

Bathing is a matter of personal choice. Today most people in the US bath or shower daily. But 30 years ago, it was normal to have a bath only twice a week. However, washing is not just about smelling fresh and looking well kept, it also helps prevent ill health. Not washing enough can lead to infections and skin complaints.

If the person you’re caring for doesn’t choose to wash as often as you would wash yourself, that’s not necessarily something to worry about. However, if their personal hygiene is causing problems or concerns, you will need to be a little more persuasive.

  • Make sure the person washes their hands before eating or handling food and after using the toilet.
  • The bottom and genitals should be washed every day to prevent infection. Urinary tract infections are much more common in older people.
  • The face should be washed every day to keep the skin clear.
  • One should have a full body wash, for example, a bath shower or a sponge bath, which is washing the body with a wet sponge or cloth but without immersion in water, at least twice a week. This doesn’t have to be done all at once though. Make use of opportunities as they arise. For example, washing different areas of the body on different days.
  • Teeth or dentures need to be cleaned twice a day to maintain oral health.

If the person with dementia doesn’t want to wash, try to remain calm and find a way around that that doesn’t involve confrontation.

Think about what the person’s routine was like before they had dementia and encourage them to maintain that level of cleanliness.

There are some things that you can do to encourage someone to bathe.

You can try giving gentle reminders about using the toilet or washing. Think about the timing of your request or the way you phrase it. A person may adamantly refuse to wash when you suggest they should, but may decide to wash themselves later in the day. Try to be flexible.

  • You may find it easier to reason with the person that they should wash if they’re going out or if they’re expecting visitors. Be sure to take advantage of those opportunities.
  • If bathing or showering causes the person distress, a sponge bath may be sufficient.
  • If the person is reluctant to change their clothing, try removing dirty clothes and substituting clean ones at bedtime or after a bath. This can help prevent arguments. If they always want to wear the same clothes, it can be very helpful to have a number of the same items. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Before you begin, when bathing a person with dementia, allow the person to do as much as possible on their own. Be ready to assist when needed but try to offer only the level of help necessary. In the earlier stages, the person may only need a reminder to bathe. As the disease progresses though, he or she will require more assistance.

Prepare the bathroom in advance by:

  • Gathering the bathing supplies. Have large towels that you can completely wrap around the person for privacy and warmth. Shampoo and soap ready before you tell the person that it’s time to bath.
  • Making the room comfortable. Pad the shower seat and other cold or uncomfortable surfaces with towels. Check that the room temperature is pleasant.
  • Placing soap, shampoo and other supplies within reach is really important. Try using hotel size plastic containers of shampoo and have a wash cloth ready to cover the person’s eyes to prevent stinging.
  • Monitoring the water temperature’s important as well. The person may not sense when the water is dangerously hot or may resist bathing if the water is too cool. Always check the water temperature even if the person draws his or her own bath.

These things can help make the experience more relaxing for you and for the senior your caring for. Remember, meet them where they’re at. Try to encourage gently and consider every step in the right direction, a success.

If you have any questions or would like some assistance with a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Seniors Helping Seniors at 248-969-4000. We’ll be happy to help.

Download Free Home Care Assessment Checklist here:

Join Our Growing Family! Become A Franchise Partner

Learn More