10 Tips to Get People With Dementia or Alzheimer’s to Shower

why do alzheimer's patients stop bathing

Share This Post

Bathing an aged or sick loved one is a well-known battleground for many family caregivers. However, things get much more complicated when dementia comes into the equation. As Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia worsens, there are various reasons why a loved one might refuse to shower. Identifying why they resist may help family caregivers handle these challenges more effectively and keep their loved ones as tidy, healthy, and easy as possible.

Why Does the Loved One Living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia Stop Bathing?

Why Does the Loved One Living with Alzheimer's or Dementia Stop Bathing

Establishing a bathing regimen is usually the simplest step in overcoming a person living with dementia who may have an aversion to showering or bathing. However, the following dementia symptoms can throw a senior’s long-established personal care routine off, making it hard for the caregiver to help them.

#1. Loss of Memory and Confusion

Due to memory loss, an elderly may assume they have just taken a shower when they haven’t bathed in weeks. Alternatively, kids may become perplexed when they start the multi-step showering process. It might be difficult to remember the various items in the bathroom and their functions. Most people with dementia skip showering entirely rather than notifying someone they trust that they have been confused and want assistance.

#2. Afraid of Bathing

For various reasons, those living with dementia are scared of showering or bathing. They may feel uneasy on slippery surfaces and fear falling and injuring themselves. In addition, they may be uneasy in the cold bathroom, and the touch of water on their skin may disturb them. (Water phobia is very common among elderly with dementia.)

An elder with dementia may not grasp the work at hand in the latter stages of the condition. Consider how terrifying it would be to be unclothed and have water pouring over you while you don’t understand why.

Based on the intensity of a senior’s cognitive decline, they may have no idea where they are or who is assisting them to bathe, making the scenario much more frightening. Fear and resistance are inextricably linked to confusion, distress, and a lack of comprehension.

#3. Depression

Depression is another factor contributing to a decrease in bathing and grooming routines. Seniors who are sad frequently tend to give up on their personal hygiene and looks. Take note if you notice that a senior who used to wash frequently, apply cosmetics, and find delight in their appearance has suddenly stopped doing so. If your loved one’s bathing and grooming habits have changed unexpectedly, it’s time to schedule a consultation with their doctor.

#4. Embarrassment

Bathing in the presence of someone else can make a person feel quite uncomfortable and ashamed if they appreciate their privacy.

#5. Confusion

People with dementia in the middle or later stages may be unaware of your presence. Therefore, when you try to remove their clothes, they may feel invaded. They may also have a misunderstanding of why they need to be washed, resulting in strong opposition.

Bonus Read: Stages of Dementia: The 7 Progressive Stages Of Dementia

Tips for Bathing a Person living with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Tips for Bathing a Person living with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

It might be difficult to understand what is going on in the mind of a person living with dementia. It may take some trial and error to figure out why they don’t want to shower and how you can encourage and calm them during the procedure. The following tips address problems that several dementia caregivers face at some point during their journey. In addition, some of these bathing tips and approaches may assist you in completing your work.

1. Know Their Preferences

Did the individual you’re caring for prefer a bath or a shower when they were living independently? Do they like to bathe first thing in the morning or last thing at night? What were their favorite toiletries?

The more you understand about their preferred hygiene regimen and the more closely you can follow it, the more convenient and comfortable it will feel for the person living with dementia.

2. Respect Their Privacy

Many elderly folks are naturally apprehensive about having someone assist them in bathing.

If the idea that you are showering your loved one makes them feel uneasy, consider hiring a professional caregiver.

Bathing aides from a reputed service can help address this while adhering to safety procedures.

Seniors are usually more relaxed with the arrangement, both physically and emotionally, if they can remain partly covered during the process, regardless of who is helping them. For example, keeping a robe or towel draped over the loved one and briefly revealing one region at a time for cleaning has been effective for many family caregivers. This keeps them warm and makes them feel less exposed.

3. Put Safety and Comfort First

Ensure that they are comfortable and safe in the bathroom at all times. Warm up the room before bath time if it tends to be cold. Turning on the central heat for a few minutes or utilizing a tiny space heater may drastically change the temperature of a room, especially for seniors who are more susceptible to cold.

If your loved one prefers to shower, be sure to attach grab bars for added stability when entering and leaving the shower. A relaxed bathing seat and a mobile shower head are also great purchases.

Your loved one can relax for as long as they want or as little as they want on the chair. The showerhead prevents water from constantly falling on the person’s head and allows a caregiver to precisely manage where and when the stream flows, reducing pain and fear.

4. Allow Them to be Independent

Encourage and enable your loved one to be as self-sufficient as possible when it comes to controlling. A verbal reminder to bathe or shower may suffice in the early stages. More support will be needed as the condition advances.

When it comes to bathing, a feeling of independence can help restore some of the lost dignity if assistance is required. Encourage the individual if they can put soap on a sponge or wash a section of the body on their own. It has the potential to be a liberating experience.

5. Provide Caregivers of the Same Gender

Providing a caregiver of the same gender to a person living with dementia who is uncomfortable or becomes sexually inappropriate during bath time might help.

Apart from having a spouse or close family provide care, most people with dementia are more likely to feel comfortable undressing in front of someone of the same gender.

Big bath towels or shower robes can also be used to provide seclusion and warmth when showering.

6. Give them Incentives

If you believe a loved one isn’t showering because they think they’ve done it before or don’t understand the value, try linking the procedure with something they like. Make it fun for them to participate. For example, you can say, “Let’s both get cleaned up, and then we’ll go for a stroll in your favorite park.” Again, focusing on the outcome rather than the bathing may help inspire them.

7. Try Sponge Baths

If a loved one’s dementia has progressed to the point where they are unable or unwilling to use the bathroom, you may try a new approach. A complete bath or shower is not required for bathing. Sponge baths, dry shampoos, and no-rinse hygiene products may all be used to get clean if done appropriately.

8. Make the Bathroom Look and Feel Like a Spa

Make an effort to create a relaxing atmosphere in the bathroom. Change the surroundings to avoid a bland, hospital-like washroom. Instead, place some intriguing yet tranquil elements in the area, such as art on the walls, relaxing music, and perhaps a towel heater for added comfort.

9. Keep Communicating While Giving them a Bath

It’s crucial to inform them about each step before you do it, whether you’re aiding in the shower or providing a sponge bath. Although the senior may not comprehend all you say, it will keep them calm and involved in the process. Surprises can cause irritation, anger, and perplexity. So in a quiet, soothing voice, describe every step. Like, “I’m going to clean your neck with this warm towel, okay?”  “I will lift your leg and wash it, but I’ll keep you safe and warm inside this towel.”

10. Use Verbal Cues

Picture someone approaching you and starting to unbutton your top or unzip your pants without asking or giving you any indication. What would it be like to experience that?

The ability to comprehend language diminishes as dementia progresses. That implies the person with dementia could have difficulty digesting what you say, or it may take a little longer.

Try including some pauses before you go to assist a loved one with dementia; to make them realize what you’re about to do. Additionally, consider combining powerful visual signals with concise and impactful verbal instructions.

For example, before you touch the individual, imitate washing your face and tell them, “I’m going to wash right there,” while pointing at their face.

That way, the individual is less likely to be surprised or react badly to your actions because they know what you will be doing.

The Bottom Line

It’s worth remembering that a daily wash or shower isn’t always required. If you’re exhausted from attempting to persuade a senior to examine their old personal hygiene habits, it’s time to sit back and reconsider your motivations. Are you attempting to persuade your loved one to follow your personal hygiene guidelines? Are you concerned about what others might say if your loved one isn’t always tidy, fresh, and dressed appropriately?

Yes, hygiene is crucial to one’s health. Though we may consider a daily shower soothing and revitalizing, those living with dementia may find it more similar to torturing. Instead, find a comfortable solution where a certain level of sanitation is maintained, but discomfort is minimized.

Finally, it’s important to remember that this war may not be worth the fight on certain days, specifically if your loved one’s safety is in danger.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

Create Your Best Life

Subscribe to our newsletter and get helpful Alzheimer’s – Dementia content curated and delivered to your inbox daily.