How do we transition her from baths to showers?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My wife has always taken baths. The memory loss unit we will use someday only has a shower. She does not like to take a bath and hates showers. Any suggestions how to break her into showering. At this point I have to give her a bath. Any suggestions on how to actually give her a shower will be appreciated.i

Expert Answers

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

You are not alone; this is a frequently asked question to which there really are some practical answers.

Although you did not ask for the cause of this seeming dislike of bathing, I hasten to tell you there are a few logical reasons why this occurs so often during the Alzheimer disease process. The most common is the feeling of vulnerability that the person experiences when someone else is in control of personal hygiene; this is coupled with the overarching theme of 'loss of control' that runs liberally throughout the disease.

Transitioning from baths to showers need not be highly traumatic for either of you. The following suggestions may make it a bit more comfortable:

  • Hire a trained home-health-aide to begin the transition. Even though it may seem counterintuitive to introduce a stranger to the bathing process, remember your wife has no personal history with the aide - there never existed any control issues. Often the memory-impaired person does things far better for someone with whom there is no history.
  • Always check the temperature of the water before entering the shower.
  • Use a hand-held shower and a seat if possible.
  • Install hand rails in the shower and the entrance to it. The more you can do to instill a sense of security, the more success you will have.
  • Never use the shower on her head or face. Instead:
    • Use a dry shampoo or shampoo on a damp face cloth & let her wash her own face if possible or gently do it yourself before or after she gets into the shower stall
  • Begin the shower with her feet and always shower from the ground up.
  • If being naked seems to bother her, then do allow her to keep on underclothing during the shower.
  • Have a warm towel and a robe ready before she emerges from the stall.

Over time, a combination of these suggestions should be helpful in the transition from baths to showers. Don't hesitate to discuss your concern with the staff of the Memory Loss Unit. You may be surprised at how little it concerns them; remember they are trained to bathe and give showers to folks for whom it has been difficult in the home-setting and they do it with little upset. Once again, there is no personal history and therefore no need for the resident to feel a loss of control.

Remember to take care of yourself!

Community Answers

Virginia-in-maine answered...

The above answer would be very helpful, but on my computer anyway the text is partially covered up - could someone fix that? Many thanks!