Is there a better way to get someone with dementia to take a shower or bath?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Tpandk asked...

I work at a long term care facility on a dementia wing. We have several residents who flat out refuse to take a bath or a shower. It is terrible trying to get them in there. No amount of coaxing, changing the ambiance time of day it is given or the person giving it seems to work. After a while it becomes a health issue and the nurse has to given them something to calm them down. It practically puts them to sleep but does work. Is there something else less drastic than drugging them that we haven't tried?

Expert Answers

Ron Kauffman is a certified senior advisor (CSA), senior lifestyle radio host, syndicated newspaper columnist, and the author of Caring for a Loved One With Alzheimer's Disease. In addition, Kauffman is also the primary caregiver for his mother, who has Alzheimer's.

Dear facility caregiver, thank you for the work you do with patients on the dementia unit where you work.

One of the aspects of caring for people with dementia is that bathing, or their avoidance thereof. is part of the dementia progression for many patients. Drugs do work in reducing their agitation, but the downside is they may become very unstable and an increased fall risk.

In many facilities there is a protocol for these patients that includes bed-bathing. This allows the patient to safely remain in the secure environment of his or her bed and permits you to provide an enjoyable bathing experience. A bed-bath, done correctly also assures a very adequate level of personal hygiene and cleanliness for the patient.

As you've already seen, for some patients, no amount of coaxing or reasoning will result in their cooperation to get into the shower. It makes sense to suggest they just relax and lay down in their own bed. At that point you can slowly begin the disrobing and bathing routine with the patient. While doing so, it may help to talk to the patient in a calm, soothing voice, and tell him/her how nice it feels to be clean and how good it is for them.

You've chosen a career path that requires you to be patient, creative and flexible in your thinking and solutions to challenges and problems. I hope this suggestion is helpful to you.