Wednesday Workshop ~ Successful Bathing Strategies

Wednesday Workshop ~ Successful Bathing Strategies

Good morning and welcome to today’s Wednesday Workshop.  Today I am going to share some tips on how to avoid the bathing battle with those living with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia.

Bathing seems to be one of the most challenging tasks for caregivers but why is it a battle ground? What makes the person with AD so resistant to an activity that he or she freely and independently, engaged in prior to developing Alzheimer’s? Is it fear, pain, embarrassment, or some other issue that leads to aggressive behavior? Indeed, it may be all of these explanations.

For adults who are in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, showering is a frightening experience.  At this stage of the disease, the person has a cognitive and functional level of a toddler between the ages of 2 and 4.  The question becomes, Do we generally shower folks at this level of function? The answer is usually a resounding no as the water hitting the person in the face feels scary.  This is true of someone living with Alzheimer’s.So why do caregiver persist with an activity that results in anxiety for the recipients of their care as well as places them in a dangerous situation? It’s likely due to the sense of being overwhelmed clocks most creative though on the part of the caregiver. Let’s explore some alternatives.

First, if the person requiring care does not have arthritis in multiple joins and is able to get in and out of a tub, this may be the best way to bath him or her.Preparation is the key to successful bathing. Towels that will needed as part of the bathing experience should be warmed in the clothes dryer prior to bathing so that the person being bathed can be wrapped in warmth through the experience. Before escorting the person with Alzheimer’s into the bathroom, it helps to fill the bathroom with a head of steam. The dame to the brain that controls body temperature leads to intense sensitivity to cold, and once someone with Alzheimer’s becomes chilled it takes a while for that person to feel comfortable again.

Mirrors should be covered because it is frequently frightening for the person with Alzheimer’s to see his or her own reflection in the mirror. That reflection may not be recognized by the person with Alzheimer’s and might be interpreted as “a stranger is in the bathroom with me”. Remember that bathing can be accomplished standing at a sink, Wrapped in warm towels for comfort as well as modesty.  Bathing can be accomplished with the person sitting on the toilet which allows almost complete access to all body parts. Consider the bathing products being used as week. For example, Ivory Soap might have been the only option when the person with Alzheimer’s was a young person, thus the use of Ivory Soap might make the bathing experience a bit more pleasant.

Lastly, it’s important that the caregiver become as knowledgeable as possible regarding the habits that might have been part of the early history of the person they care for. For instance, if the person only bathed on Saturday in preparation for church the next day, then the caregiver should make every Saturday bathing day.

If you would like more information, please visit our website at or call the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center at (561) 588-4545. Thanks for watching today’s Wednesday Workshop and we will see you again next week.

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