Dementia can cause a person to forget about or lose interest in bathing, grooming, and changing clothes. As a caregiver, it is important to understand why this happens so you can find strategies to help the person you are caring for maintain their hygiene. There are several things you can try to make personal care tasks easier for someone with dementia.
Understand the Causes
A person with dementia may avoid bathing because they no longer recognize the need to stay clean. They may also be anxious about the bathing process itself, as it involves a series of steps that can be confusing. In addition, the feeling of vulnerability that comes with being undressed can cause agitation or resistance. Simple tasks like brushing teeth and combing hair can be forgotten entirely.
Use Reassurance and Patience
When supporting someone with bathing or grooming, be reassuring and patient. Speak in a calm, respectful manner and allow plenty of time for the task. Break each step down into simple instructions. Check the temperature of the water to make sure it is comfortable. If the person becomes upset, take a break and try again later. Being flexible and adapting your approach is important.
Make Tasks Easy and Familiar
Stick to a regular bathing schedule and routine if possible. Make sure the bathroom is organized with familiar products and items within easy reach. Simplify clothing by providing comfortable garments that are easy to get on and off. Velcro and snap closures can be helpful. Offer gentle reminders about when to change outfits.
Provide the Right Equipment
Use equipment designed to make personal care easier and safer. A shower chair, hand-held showerhead, and anti-slip mats can help prevent falls. No-rinse cleansing foams allow washing without getting into a tub. Long-handled brushes assist with hard to reach areas. Electric toothbrushes and razors are easier to manage.
Consider In-Home Care
You may need to call on professional help if personal care becomes too challenging. Home health aides can visit regularly to provide bathing, grooming, and hygiene assistance. This allows the primary caregiver to focus on other aspects of care.
With understanding, patience and some adaptations, maintaining personal hygiene is possible even as dementia progresses. Don’t hesitate to draw on support services so you can provide the best care while also taking care of your own needs as a caregiver.