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8 Bathing Tips for Dementia Residents

As caregivers we come across many daily tasks that are difficult to overcome when caring for the elderly, especially those who suffer from Alzheimers Dementia and other Dementia related illnesses. Among those challenges there is one that seems to be the most prevalent, which is bathing. Residents with Dementia will often refuse to bathe for whatever reason (the most common reason that I come across is “I already took a shower” or “I’ll shower later”).  This is where we as caregivers have to get creative. Now, I understand that every resident is different and unique in their own way and I know these tips will not resolve every difficulty we come across. But, following these steps has certainly helped me in many difficult situations that I’ve come across when attempting to assist a resident with bathing. And my hope is that it will do the same for you, not to mention, it will give the resident a better experience and hopefully reduce some of the anxiety that comes with not wanting to bathe.

  • Establish a routine with your resident: I try to be consistent with each of my residents. Everything from the time I come in to help them get dressed to the date and time of each shower day. Residents with dementia respond better when they have a routine.
  •   Prepare everything ahead of time, clothes, towels, hygiene products etc…
  • Before bringing your resident into the shower room, turn the water on and let the water run for some time. Let the room warm up to a comfortable temperature that way the resident is not too cold or too hot when they have to undress.
  • I can’t stress this enough, patience truly is a virtue. Be patient with your resident. If you’re anything like me, you might have a huge “to-do” list. But don’t let that stop you from being patient and taking your time with each resident. It’s worth it in the end.
  • Direct the resident and lead them to the shower and don’t use the word “you” as in “you need to do this or that” – instead, use “we” as in “we are going to do this next”. “We” “us” “lets” these are inclusive words that do not make the resident feel like you are a drill sergeant giving them orders.
  • If possible, use a handheld showerhead. These are great when assisting with bathing because they give you control over where the water shoots. As opposed to a wall mounted shower head that sprays water into the residents face as they walk in.
  • Be gentle and respectful: Remember that you are asking them to be very vulnerable. No matter how old a person is, getting naked in front of strangers is not so easy. Explain everything step by step when you are assisting with bathing. Everything from “we are stepping into the shower now” to “I am going to scrub your back now”.
  • Encourage independence: Ask the resident to wash whatever body parts they can as long as it is safe to do so. A resident being able to wash themselves will restore a bit of their dignity and will help them stay independent longer.

Our job as caregivers is very demanding and our residents take a lot out of us but remember why we do this. Whatever your motivation is, remember that we are dealing with human beings who depend on us. Be patient and be kind. Best of luck to all of my caregivers out there (including the daughters and son taking care of moms and dads at home, I commend you).

Yours Truly,
Rebecca S. – The Harvest at Fowler Caregiver

Rebecca S. – Caregiver
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1400 E. Sumner Ave.
Fowler, CA. 93625
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