The Battle of the Bath

Cover Image Nav Alz

If my husband had his way, he’d never shower or bathe. He says that he doesn’t need to or he just took a shower. His resistance can be quite emphatic, which is common in people with later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Bathing is a necessary, albeit challenging, component of Alzheimer’s care. Not only do the people around us appreciate cleanliness, it aides in the prevention of rashes, skin disease, and urinary tract infections.

But the reasons people with Alzheimer’s detest bathing are many. They no longer understand why they need to bathe.The concept of time is lost, so they may believe they just bathed. The process is confusing, and they don’t remember how to bathe.Their body does not regulate heat well which makes them feel cold. The sensation of the water on their body is uncomfortable. And,they may be embarrassed about being naked and needing assistance.

Reasoning with someone with Alzheimer’s is not possible. An argument is sure to develop if we try to explain why a bath is necessary. But there are a few things we can do to make it a little easier for both the caregiver and bather.

Safety is a priority so, when showering, be sure the floor is covered with a non-slip mat, there is a bar on the wall to hold on to, and a chair is there for anyone who struggles to stand. The room and the water must be at a comfortable temperature. Playing soft music and offering a wash cloth or something to hold can add a distraction. Speak softly, respectfully, and directly to help move things along. And offer a bribe. If they know that a treat awaits them, they may be more eager to participate.

©2016, Mary K Doyle


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