Tips for helping someone with dementia to shower or bathe
So like many of you, I enjoy my shower every day. My mother also enjoyed her bath on a regular basis. As the dementia set in, she was more and more hesitant to take her bath and even wash her hair which she used to do in the kitchen sink. I never really thought about that too much, but seems odd to do that there, but that is not what I wanted to discuss here. What I want to discuss was how wary she was of the shower and bath. She had help coming from the CCAC, which is now Home and Community Care under the LHIN. They would come on a regular basis to help her shower. Problem was she was not a person who ever took a shower, and they did not care. They were told to give her a shower. She would refuse and they would leave. I struggled with the entire concept of her not wanting a shower. I could not understand why a woman who was always concerned about her hygiene was now refusing showering. Well for some of you it is obvious, she did not like showers, she was more a bath person. No one from the LHIN tried to figure that out, and I was not there to correct them, so it went on like this for some time until we were able to convince her to shower. What they should have done was given her the choice. I want to talk about why she may not have wanted to shower outside of the fact that she was a bath person in the first place, she never knew who was coming from the LHIN to give her a shower or bath. You can only imagine the feeling that gave her as well, who wants a stranger bathing them, for the most part, we all shower or bathe in private, so having a stranger around feels like an invasion of privacy. That was mostly the issue we saw with my mother. For others, it can be a fear of water, be it because of a traumatic event or just increased anxiety. Others react like my mom did, “I don’t shower, I always took a bath”. Another reason why someone with dementia may be opposed to bathing from what I read and researched was lack of understanding. Someone who is mid to late-stage dementia may not understand why you are in the room with them, why you want them to take off their clothes and why they need to be in water to be washed. Remember, they have lost rational thought which includes understanding sequencing.
So instead of letting you figure everything out on your own, I thought I would share with you some of the tips I found while doing some research on the topic.
- Prepare – always make sure you have the soap, shampoo, and a warm towel ready prior to having your loved one take a shower or bath
- Offer a choice – bath or shower – remember LHIN did not do that with my mother so she just skipped it all together
- Adjust the time of day – to the time when they used to shower or bathe so that it feels routine. For my mother, she would always have her bath in the evening after a long day.
- Ensure the bathroom is warm and not too drafty or cold. Makes for a more enjoyable shower or bath experience
- Encourage independence – if the person can wash themselves, encourage that to happen, this will restore some dignity
- If using a service, offer a caregiver of the same sex- some women prefer having a female caregiver and the same can be said of men.
- Music- play some music the person enjoys and maybe they will sing in the shower!
- Humour – always make it a pleasant experience and humour can reduce anxiety, increase comfort and distract from the task at hand
- Doctor’s orders – that one can be used by reminding your loved one that the doctor wants them to shower or bath.
- Use a no rinse soap and shampoo – if the length of a shower or bath creates anxiety, shorten it by using no-rinse products
These are just some tips I found when conducting my research on how to get my mom to bathe or shower. There are many more ideas out there on the Internet. You should explore and research as much as possible as you go through this journey with your loved one.