Bathing Tips for Alzheimer's Caregivers
Caregiving can be a rewarding experience, but for every valuable experience, there’s typically a difficult one to go along with it. For caregivers that care for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, little, everyday tasks can become a challenge. Things such as eating, grooming, dressing and bathing can be made difficult because the individual may no longer understand the need for any of these things. Although, like any challenge, there are ways that these things can be facilitated.
Of these things, many may feel that bathing an individual with Alzheimer’s is the most challenging feat of all; after all, this occurs when the senior is most vulnerable and may want to put up a fight. Despite the argument that may occur, physicians suggest that seniors bathe at least twice a week to avoid infections and any other complications that may occur due to lack of cleanliness.
Here are a few tips for before, during and after the bath that may help the experience become more positive:
Preparing for the Bath
- Give the individual a choice in the matter. For example, “would you like to bathe now or in an hour”, or “would you like to take a bath or a shower?”
- Make sure the bathroom is warm, making it easy and comfortable for the individual to remove clothing and want to get in the bath.
- If the individual seems unsure of the bath, fill it with about two inches of water, and see how they react. If they seem comfortable with it, allow them to get in, and continue filling it while they are in the bath.
- Make sure that the water is a comfortable temperature, not too hot or too cold.
- Make sure the area is secure, and there is the necessary equipment for the individual to feel safe and reduce the risk of slipping and falling. For example, a shower chair or bench may be necessary if the individual chooses to shower rather than take a bath.
During the Bath
- Make sure the individual has a role in his or her own bath/shower. For example, as the caregiver is washing the body, suggest that the individual washes his or her own face – this way, the individual will feel that they are doing something, and not that something is being done to them.
- Flexibility is key when giving an Alzheimer’s patient a bath. Remember that their mind works in a different way now, and it may take somewhat odd things to make them feel comfortable, like first getting in the bath with clothes on, or wanting to wear a bathing suit.
- Respect the individual and their dignity. If they don’t care much for baths, remember that they may be embarrassed. Try to keep the senior’s body covered as much as possible, so they don’t feel completely exposed. Having a caregiver of the same sex may also help with any feelings of embarrassment.
- If the senior becomes upset during the bath, try to distract him or her by bringing up a different talk.
After the Bath
- Be sure to help the senior out of the tub. He or she may have balance issues, requiring assistance while stepping out of the shower or bath and drying off.
- Have multiple, large towels available as soon as the individual steps out of the bath or tub. The warmer the individual stays, the more positive their experience with bathing will be.
- Bring up the next time the senior will bathe in a positive and exciting way. For example, say something along the lines of “next time we take a bath, maybe we can stay for a few minutes longer.”
- Have a few outfit choices ready for the individual to choose from. Choosing clothes can be difficult for Alzheimer’s patients, and they often pick clothes that aren’t appropriate for the season, or for what they are doing after the bath (i.e. wanting to get dressed up before bed, or where pajamas to church).
- Reward them for having a successful bath! Verbally congratulating the individual may make them more inclined to want to take a bath the next time!
It’s important for caregivers to remember that bathing doesn’t have to be a difficult or emotionally tiring time. While some individuals will always try to argue when bath time comes around, it can be turned into a positive experience for both the caregiver and the senior.