Dementia Bathing: A Guide for Caregivers
Note: Since this article was written, some newer options have appeared on the market. Rinseless bath cloths and other options are available on Amazon (I’m thinking Scrubzz here, but there are likely other brands). Also, there are foams that some people like to use. So, do some digging. Nothing changes the fact that bathing a resistant person is difficult but understanding them and their resistance, and finding options, both help.
Getting an aging or ill loved one to bathe can be a notorious battle that many family caregivers experience. When dementia is a part of this equation, it complicates things even further. As their condition progresses, a senior with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia may refuse to bathe for a number of reasons. Understanding why they resist can help family caregivers navigate these issues and keep their loved ones as clean, healthy, and comfortable as possible.
How often should seniors bathe? Because this can be such a difficult task, one important consideration is how often seniors truly need to bathe. Since the U.S. is a melting pot of people and cultures from around the world, there are many definitions here of what constitutes cleanliness. Where I live in the High Plains, many seniors who are now in their 80s and 90s grew up taking weekly baths, often because they lived on remote farms where water was too precious to waste. For others, that routine was just normal behavior.
All of this is to say that if a senior won’t shower every single day, it’s unlikely that their health will suffer. This may seem inadequate to younger generations that shower more frequently, but a change of clothes each day and a weekly bath is usually enough for most elders. However, if skin issues and/or incontinence are part of this equation, then more frequent bathing is crucial for preventing dangerous infections.
The goal is to find a frequency that’s realistic for both you and your loved one. If you need…
Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “I hold onto your book as a life preserver and am reading it slowly on purpose…I don’t want it to end.” …Craig William Dayton, Film Composer
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Support a caregiver or jump-start discussion in support groups with real stories – for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol