Dementia and Bathing: 5 Proven Ways to Keep Your Loved One Clean

Brianna Maguire

Written by Brianna Maguire on Mon Oct 12 2020.

Dementia and Bathing: 5 Proven Ways to Keep Your Loved One Clean

If you’re caring for someone with dementia and struggle to bathe them, know that you aren’t alone. From “curious vision” to having a tough time seeing the water, all sorts of challenges can pop up when you’re trying to get your loved one clean. To help, we met with dementia care experts and put together a guide of our favorite tips.

1. Encourage your loved one to undress, instead of undressing them

Maintaining independence is crucial for those with dementia, and one of the best tools on your belt to promote independence is mimicking. Instead of undressing your loved ones, begin unbuttoning your own shirt or motion pulling your shirt over your head. Then gently point to your loved one and say “Now you!” Not only does this promotes independence, but it helps your loved one understand what’s coming next.

2. Be prepared for obscene language

When it comes to dementia’s work on the brain, it’s usually the case that loved ones will hold onto “forbidden” language the longest, and as time goes on, inhibitions are lowered. This means that you can expect a bit of obscenity, especially as you help your loved one undress. Just remember – it’s not your loved one talking, it’s the condition. Practice patience, kindness, and understanding.

3. Always use a gentle touch first

Many older adults with dementia develop a loss of “contrast sensitivity,” meaning that if things are a similar color, it can be difficult to tell one apart from the other. When it comes to the shower, many with dementia can’t see the water, and experience an unpleasant jolt when they step in. To help, take an extra minute to extend your loved one’s hand into the water. Allow them to feel that the water is there, and that the temperature is warm and comforting.

4. Turn them away from the faucet

After you’ve allowed your loved one to explore the water, be sure you turn them away from the faucet. Those with dementia often develop “curious vision,” and love to turn knobs and push buttons. Be sure any shower controls are firmly out of sight to avoid freezing – or scalding hot – changes in water temperature.

5. Keep your loved one clean between showers with no-rinse bathing supplies

No-rinse bathing supplies allow you to stretch your time in between showers, while keeping your loved one fresh and clean. A few of our favorites are this no-rinse shampoo cap, no-rinse body wash, and disposable bath wipes.

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Brianna Maguire
Brianna Maguire

Brianna Maguire heads up Carewell’s Customer Care Team, and serves as a resource for caregivers that need support. Whether it’s helping customers decide which products are best for their needs, answering caregiver questions, or just providing a shoulder to lean on on a tough day, her job is to make caregivers’ lives easier.