Ask the Alzheimer’s Expert is brought to you each week by Elayne Forgie and the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center.
Question: I am having a hard time getting my dad to take a shower. How can I get him to agree?
Answer: It’s not uncommon for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia to refuse to shower, and finding a way to encourage them will take some trial and error. The first thing you might want to consider is whether or not he actually needs to take a shower? Many older people grew up taking baths once or twice a week and just never got into the habit of bathing more frequently. Most people don’t really need to bathe every day.
Some other common issues that you should consider include:
- Memory Loss – There is a good likelihood that your dad has lost track of time and doesn’t realize just how long it has been since he last showered.
- Decreased Senses – As we age our sense of smell and sight decrease. Although you may detect your dads body odor, he may not.
- Depression – Depression could be causing your dad to lose interest in his appearance. If you suspect your dad is suffering from depression, contact his physician.
- Loss of Control – As your dad loses more control over the decisions and choices he is able to make, it becomes more important for him to control the few things he still can – and showering might represent the one thing he feels he can control. Be sure to acknowledge his emotions and be sensitive to his frustrations.
- Forgetfulness – Your dad may be overwhelmed when left alone in the bathroom. A shower filled with various bottles and other items might be too confusing. He might have forgotten which faucet is hot and cold or how to use a handheld shower.
- Fear – If he has slipped while alone or scauled himself when trying to adjust the water temperature, he might be afraid to shower again.
Sensitivity and compromise will go a long way in reducing your anxiety and his frustrations. Although your dad might find it degrading to have you help him in the shower, he might benefit from the assistance of a trained home health aide or certified nurses aide. Many home care agencies and in home care providers offer bath visits as part of their services.
If you live in South Florida, contact ElderCare at Home at 561-585-0400 to learn more about their Bed & Bath service or to speak with a care manager.