7 Top Tips on Showering with Dementia
Wednesday 23rd September 2020
When looking after someone with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimers or dementia completing the simplest task such as having a bath or shower can be a constant struggle, skyrocketing your stress levels.
So here are our 7 top tips to make bath time a more pleasurable experience:
- 1. Establish a daily routine - Even if your loved one does not require a bath daily its easier to establish a regular bathroom routine at the same time every day. It then becomes part of their normal day, just like eating or sleeping and reduces their overall stress and anxiety making it more likely they will bathe without resistance.
- 2. Use positive reinforcement and don't argue - it's no good trying to tell your loved one they will smell or how many days its been since their last shower. Instead keep sentences short and simple and focus on positive, fun activities that come after the bath. Get everything ready before encouraging them into the bathroom. Sit alongside them or lower yourself to their level, make eye contact and smile, hold out your hand and let them take it, gently lead them to the bathroom. As you walk chat about the fun activities you with both do after the bath "Lets go shower and then we can have a cup of tea and a biscuit and look at your sailing book. Keep the conversation on the fun activity, avoid mentioning bathing. Take this approach each day and bathing will become associated with positive things, fun activities, their favourite snack. If they refuse, don't argue, drop the subject and move onto chatting about something pleasant, this redirects their thoughts and mood. Wait a while, maybe do an activity they like then try again, as if you've not asked them before that day.
- 3. Say "we" not "you" - during the bathing experience remain calm and use a soothing tone, use "we" instead of "you" as this gives the feeling that you are doing this relaxing activity together, so it's not scary for them. "We are going to have a nice bath now and then we are going to sit down and have a cup of tea together with a nice chocolate biscuit."
- 4. Make the bathroom warm and comfortable - older adults feel the cold more easily than someone younger. Making the bathing experience pleasant and comfortable will reduce objections before and during bathing. Ensure the heating is on in the bathroom and all windows and doors are closed to keep draughts out. Prewarm towels on the radiator and have lots to hand. Lay a towel on the chair or toilet seat so they can sit down to remove clothing. Maybe have a little soft music playing in the background to help relax them.
- 5. Use a hand held shower to reduce fear - the spray from a shower can be terrifying to someone with dementia especially if its spraying over their head and in their face, this way you can control where the water touches them. Ensure the water is at the correct temperature before pointing it towards them. Use their favourite shower gel, soap or bubble bath as scents can play an important role in relaxation. If they are having a shower sat on a bath board, having a shallow amount of nice warm water in the bottom of the bath for them to put their feet in is very relaxing for them, as well as helping to keep them warm (make sure they have a rubber slip mat for safety). Always talk through what is happening, using soft, calming tones -"lets put our hands in the water now" move the spray slowly over that part of the body allowing them to become accustomed to it before moving it on. If the spray is fierce, turn it down a little so it does not spray so much. Not everyone likes the spray from a shower, even turned down, in which case try using the warm water in the bottom of the bath with a jug and small bath sponge, start with the sponge soaked in nice warm soapy water before using the jug.
- 6. Encourage and relax - there are so many steps involved in bathing, it can be quite overwhelming for someone with dementia. Talk and encourage them through every step, let them know what's going to happen next and encourage them to do as much as they are able to themselves. If they know what's happening, they are less likely to object. "Let's use the sponge to wash your arm now, that's great, let's dip it back in the water and then rinse it again."
- 7. Use extra towels for comfort and warmth - Some people like to keep covered up whilst washing which will mean towels get wet during the process and these will become cold, so keep adding a little warm water over them during the bathing process to help keep them warm. As soon as bathing has finished cover the person immediately with warmed towels from the radiator and help to dry them as quickly as possible.
Still struggling? Why not drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if we can help.