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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Watson

7 Tips for Getting Someone With Dementia To Shower or Bathe

“I never dreamed we would be dealing with this situation. Mom was all about appearances when we were growing up. She did not step outside the door of our home without her hair perfectly coiffed and her makeup on. She was such a lady! But now, she refuses to bathe or shower. And she smells! Additionally, she wants to keep the same clothes on day after day. This is so unlike her. What Can we do?” ~Amber

Unfortunately, this story is not uncommon. It is a challenge that many families face. Here are some tips that may help.

Prepare Everything In Advance

Make sure the temperature is just right in the bathroom. And that could mean that it is a little warm for you. Remember Mom will be unclothed so she will need the room a bit warmer. Also make sure the water temperature is just right. In fact, include Mom in this part by asking her if she could please check the water for you to make sure it is right for her. This will help to make mom a part of the ritual.

Create a Spa Like Environment

Soft music playing and aromatherapy can both set the tine for relaxation. Certain oils like Lavender, Bergamot and Ylang Ylang are 3 scents that have been associated with relaxation. Before bath time ask mom to choose her favorite. Use a diffuser, to add the scent into the room. The more you can involve mom in the process the better your outcome will be.

Offer a Choice Between a Bath or A Shower

Some people might not have a strong preference. But offering a choice can improve the outcome. A lot of water in a tub may cause fear for some, while the spraying of a shower can make others anxious. Remember someone with dementia may see and hear things differently.

Pick a Different Time of Day

If giving Mom a bath in the morning is not working try the afternoon. Likewise, if she is prone to sundowning late afternoon would not be a good choice. Sometimes a simple change in the time of day can make a huge difference.

Do Daily Baths

Routines are so important for people with dementia. As such, a daily bath rather that 3 times a week may help your dementia patient to adjust. Keep the whole routine the same. Everything from how the room is prepared to the time of day will all matter.

Use Different Words

Instead of saying I am going to give you a bath or It’s time for your shower change your approach. You might say “Let’s wash up” or “Your spa bath is ready for you” try different words and different ways to approach Mom and you may just get a different response.

Try a Different Caregiver

If you are not having any luck getting Mom to take her bath maybe your sister in law could try. Or you could hire a professional caregiver to help. Families often report that a hired caregiver has much better luck getting Mom to cooperate than they do. This may be in part because they have a lot more experience working with people with dementia.

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