Bath Suggestions for Elderly Dementia?

We are caring for my aging parents mostly because my mother needed help to care for my father who has early to mid Alzheimer's. My elderly parents have moved in with my family.

He refuses to shower and a bath is out of the question. He gets enraged at the suggestion and refuses no matter how we try to convince him.

He has had 1 shower since Memorial Day weekend and is obviously in dire need. He is physically able and my mother is willing to help him, but he will not cooperate.

I have run into this before and know there is not always an easy solution for providing help for elderly in this situation.

Not only can it be frustrating when you can't convince your aging parent to bathe, but you also worry about their health.

I'll give you some advice and a few tips to try:

1. Remember that bathing doesn't have to happen once a day. Once a week is good.

2. Sponge baths are ok if you can get your aging parent to agree to this.

3. Try a different tactic. Tell them you're going out somewhere special so they need to take a shower and get "dolled" up. If there was something they valued earlier in life (going to a show, going to church, going out with friends), use that as an excuse.

4. Make sure the bath feels safe for them. If they have moved from their old home, as in this case, try and set up the bathroom and shower/bath to look like their old one. If you'd like some ideas on improving bathroom safety, Bathroom Products for the Elderly.

5. Modesty might be part of the issue. They may not want any of their family members to see them undressed. Consider hiring outside help for this task. This works sometimes.

6. Try providing nice warm towels for a spongebath. You can try this right in the morning when they get up before getting dressed.

7. If they'll be getting help with a bath/ shower/ sponge bath, try to be slow and soothing. Always warn them before touching so not to startle them. "I'm just going to wipe your face" or "I'm going to spray the water on your back now".

8. Try alternatives like dry shampoo to reduce the amount of actual baths/showers needed.

9. Think of how and when she bathed in the past. Try and help recreate this.

I know this can be a very challenging situation and I hope these suggestions help.

If any other readers have suggestions that have worked for them, please share them!

Thank you,

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More bathing suggestions for caring for elderly with dementia...
by: Kevin

First - this may be an ongoing battle that you may not win. Just try your best and be patient.

Their old routine - Try to continue with their old routine. If they took a shower in the morning then try to have them take it then. Tell them they need to have a shower before they go out, to church, etc. Something they would normally have showered and gotten ready for.

Did they bathe or shower - Continuing with trying to recreate their old routine - did they bathe or shower? Do the same with them now. There is equipment such as bath lifts and shower chairs that allow the care receiver to safely do either a shower or a bath.

Timing - Try to direct them towards showering before they put their clothes on for the day. Sometimes professional care is scheduled for later in the day and the care receiver may not want to shower then. Schedule their showers for when they would normally have done them - usually first thing in the morning or last thing before bed.

Fear - Acknowledge that they may be afraid of something to do with showering/bathing. They may be afraid of many things such as falling in the shower and not knowing how to shower (as well as feeling embarrassed because they do not remember how to shower). Talk them through it and reassure them you will keep them safe.

Length of time - It will take a lot longer to shower than it does for most people. Ensure you have lots of time and do not rush the care receiver.

Talk them through it - Take it one step at a time. Try not to convince them it is time to take a bath. Be direct such as "Your bath is ready Betty" "I've prepared your shower Susan" or "Would you like a bath or shower" instead of would you like to shower or it is shower time. Break the task into small steps that they can follow.

Your feelings - This is not a time to become agitated, impatient and annoyed yourself. This is part of dementia and they are not behaving this way to annoy you.

Rewards - Try offering a reward for showering or bathing. Such as food or a favorite activity.

Calm - Try to set a mood of calmness. Play soft music and make sure the bathroom is warm and inviting.

Frequency - Showering or bathing every 2-3 days or even once a week may be all your loved one can handle. Try sponge bathing in between and look for signs of skin irritation/breakdown.

Outside Help Doesn't Always Work
by: Anonymous

I am a CNA and I have experience in memory care... plus I have worked in homes with disabled adults and have been doing this for 15 years.

I am with a client now through a home health company. The client has Alzheimers and dementia. She hates being touched...she won't let me or her husband assist in giving her a bath/shower.

We have also suggested sponge/bed baths...she flat out refuses. Keep in mind we do use the no rinse spray when she potties but that is only a temp fix. Any advice?

by: Kevin

Thank you for sharing your story.

It is not uncommon for individuals with Alzheimer's to not want to bathe and family/caregiver's having ++ difficulty trying to persuade and help them.

You are doing the right thing for your mother and father. I know it is challenging.

There are some great resources that may help:

1) Alzheimer's support groups - both for your mother and yourself. You can learn a lot from other care givers and the knowledge that you are not the only ones experiencing this is very worthwhile.

2) Consider hiring a home health aide that has specialized training with providing care to those with Alzheimer's. Their experience and knowledge and the fact they are not family can be successful in providing care.

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