7 tips to get someone with dementia to shower or bathe
Put soap on the washcloth or sponge and give it to the person. Let the person wash himself or herself. You can wash areas that he or she can’t reach. Gently remind the person you’re caring for that it’s best to start with the cleanest areas and finish with those that are less clean.
At a minimum, bathing once or twice a week helps most seniors avoid skin breakdown and infections. Using warm washcloths to wipe armpits, groin, genitals, feet, and any skin folds also helps minimize body odor in between full baths. However, some dementia caregivers say it’s actually easier to bathe every day.
If they refuse to bathe and start to argue, drop the subject and move on to something pleasant. This avoids a fight that will create negative feelings that often linger. Wait and try again in a little while. During the entire bathing experience, it’s helpful to use a calm, soothing tone and say “we” instead of “you.”
There can be a number of reasons that older people might ‘give up’ on their personal hygiene. Sometimes older people, especially those with dementia, may fear taking a shower. The person may be afraid of falling, or they may even think their carer is trying to hurt them.
Bathing once or twice a week is acceptable for older adults, as the purpose is to prevent the skin from breaking down and lower the risk of skin infections. Seniors also tend to be less active than younger adults, so they can get away with fewer baths. However, you don’t want your loved one to develop body odor.
Bathing can be a challenge because people living with Alzheimer’s may be uncomfortable receiving assistance with such an intimate activity. They may also have depth perception problems that make it scary to step into water. They may not perceive a need to bathe or may find it a cold, uncomfortable experience.
Dr. Jones adds that the physical symptoms of depression, such as physical pain, can also cause people to avoid showering. Anxiety and sensory disorders can also cause difficulty with showering, for example. These people often will refuse to bathe as they may struggle with the temperature or touch of the water.
People with ablutophobia are afraid of washing, bathing, or showering.
Ask their healthcare provider. When a conversation doesn’t help, contacting a healthcare provider may help you determine the actual reason someone refuses to bathe. He/she can help you understand the ins and outs of their medical condition and may provide you with alternatives to bathing… such as a sponge bath.
Perhaps the most common reason for elderly people to stop showering is fear of falling or injury. They may worry that they will slip over getting in or out of the shower, or that they will struggle to stand up for the time it takes to wash.
It’s 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.