Something as personal as bathing is not so personal anymore if you’re an Alzheimer’s caregiver. Making sure your loved one has bathed and is keeping proper hygiene is now your responsibility. Suddenly bathing an infant or toddler doesn’t seem as difficult when you’re trying to get your loved one with dementia to even agree to take a bath. So what do you do when your loved one refuses to bathe?
Provide a choice. Don’t try to reason or negotiate with your loved one when they refuse to take a bath. The very symptoms of this disease cause Alzheimer’s patients to be unreasonable, so that’s not going to help. Provide a choice to give the some control, you may say, “would you like to take a bath now or after breakfast?”
Prepare the bathroom beforehand. Approach them for their bath time by referencing it as it is time for their ‘spa’ day. Get ready the bath or shower for your loved one and make sure the water is a comfortable temperature. Remember, their skin may be hyper-sensitive so checking the water is important. You may also consider a softer sponge or just squeezing water on them rather as rubbing their skin may be painful.Be sure to cover them up with a towel if they are being sponge bathed or set up curtains so your loved one will feel like they have some privacy. Having relaxing music on may also provide a more soothing experience.
Give praise and tasks. Give positive reinforcement while your loved one with Alzheimer’s bathes. You may ask them to hold the washcloth or bar of soap. Let them know that they are doing a good job and reinforce that the water feels nice. Maybe even offer them their favorite snack when they finish so they’ll begin to associate baths with a favorite thing.
If bathing is still a difficult task. Consider bathing your loved one a few days per week or only as needed. They are likely not breaking a sweat or getting so dirty that it warrants a bath everyday. If your loved absolutely refuses bathing there are care agencies that have professionals that specialize in this task that could help make the process easier. Your last resort should be to contact the Alzheimer’s patient’s doctor for further directions or support.