For many years I’ve been writing about the importance of upholding a routine while caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related diseases.
This is especially true when it comes to bath time.
Even repeatedly using the same bathing products can be beneficial. More often than not patients will become accustomed to the aromas and colors of the products. I’ve always said, “If you find something that’s working, stick with it.”
I also believe that, whenever possible, always try to have the same person help them bathe. Having different people taking turns bathing them may offend their feelings of pride and dignity, leaving them embarrassed.
My father was one who had always had a strict routine, even before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. First he ate breakfast, then shaved and showered. I soon learned how much more difficult it was to bathe him in the evenings.
Here are some suggestions on how to preserve the patients’ privacy: place a large towel or robe over their shoulders and one over their lap and then try washing under the towel.
It’s important to have bathing items ready and laid out ahead of time so you won’t have to stop and leave patients unattended in the middle of the procedure.
Never leave them alone. It only takes a microsecond for something bad to happen.
Install whatever safety devices are needed: handrails, traction strips, a shower bench that has a well-heeled back connected to it so they won’t fall over backward and a handheld shower sprayer; this is a must for proper rinsing.
There will be good days and bad days. If you’re upsetting them too much, you might want to bring into play the old-fashioned sponge bath. You don’t want to overstress the issue.
If the experience becomes too dramatic, it might be even more difficult the next time.
Please, whatever you do, do not tell them they stink. This is an approach they’ll only find offensive and will get you absolutely nowhere. Nobody likes to be insulted, even if it’s true.
Bathing them two or three times a week should be sufficient, unless they become incontinent. Then you’ll have to wash and observe their skin condition daily. Make sure pressure sores don’t arise and become infected. If you notice any area you’re worried about, contact their physician right away.
Try to make their bathing experience as pleasant as possible, maybe have some light music playing in the bathroom in advance. There will be times when they flat-out refuse to wash. Never push the issue.
As the caregiver, you must be flexible; an hour later might bring totally different results.