Caregiver Training: Refusal to Bathe | UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care

my mother used to shower every day now if I don’t remind her she refuses to bathe at all if I try to help her and courage her to take a bath she argues with me and gets upset so she’s afraid of the water what can I do mom it’s 8 a.m. time for your shower oh I don’t need it I don’t want one mom come on please we’ve gone over this over and over watch come on it’s been a week since your last one you need one please get undressed a person with dementia will often refuse withdraw or fight during a bath or shower when you’re helping someone to bathe it’s important to be sensitive and tactful and to respect their dignity remember washing is a personal and private activity bathing can be scary for patients as dementia progresses okay mom it’s noon it’s time for your spa treatment oh I don’t really want to go but you love the spa makes you feel like a queen yeah and after that we’ll go to your favorite restaurant for lunch well okay I guess all right good let’s go so first let’s start by unbuttoning your shirt I’m gonna do the top button and then can you help okay okay good job mom okay mom I put a little water on your toes I’ll test it see if it’s okay what’s up feel mmm it’s warm good now let’s wash down there can you do that by yourself you know sweet okay we’re almost finished I’m going to turn the water pressure on low and fill up this cup some water I’m going to stand up you just sit right here okay just lean your head back I’ll pour a little bit of water on you we’re going to gently massage your hair with your favorite gardenia scented shampoo how does that feel mm-hmm reassure your loved one that even though bathing is a very personal activity you’re happy to help ask how she feels and how she would prefer to do things here are some additional tips on how to help your loved one bathes be flexible on the time if your loved one doesn’t like to bathe in the morning try a different time of day if the word shower or bath causes anxiety use a different term like spa or get clean make the bathroom inviting by using flameless candles aromatherapy or soothing music it’s important that your loved one feels safe install handrails and use a shower chair limit bathing to twice a week and give sponge baths in between let her know what you’re about to do one step at a time and have her help as much as possible use a towel to drape over her to provide more privacy if you don’t have one available consider installing a handheld showerhead being able to aim the water can be helpful and less stressful

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