Bathing brings many discomforts. Bathrooms can feel cold and drafty when a person is wet. And running water can be noisy. Nudity makes bathing very intimate, which can be distressing when a modest person needs help and may not recognize the helper.
Plus, bathing is a complicated process with many steps in a specific order. People with dementia may become confused and frustrated. They also may forget about the purpose of cleanliness.
Here are some tips to ease bath time:
- Guard the senses. Sometimes people with dementia are hypersensitive. Heat the bathroom ahead of time. Be gentle and avoid scrubbing. Check the water for temperature—too hot?—and the water pressure from the shower—too hard?
- Promote independence. Encourage your loved one to do things themselves. If you do need to take over, tell them what you are going to do before you do it. And give them a role so they can participate, such as holding the soap.
- Preserve modesty. Even if you are helping a spouse, have a towel at the ready for undressing and dressing.
- Maintain a routine. Most families notice that certain times of day are better than others. Bathing at the same time each day may make it easier.
Sponge baths work just as well. In terms of hygiene, all that’s needed is a twice a week wash, and even that can be just the highlights: armpits, folds of skin (under the breast, on the belly), groin, genitals, feet. Remember to keep the rest of the body covered with warm towels to minimize any chill.
- Try singing together. Or play music or old radio shows for distraction.
- Consider using bath wipes. Warm by putting an open package in the microwave for 10 seconds.
- Call it “spa time.” Use no-rinse soap on moist, warm midsize towels and massage in gently. Wipe off with warm, moist washcloths.