How to Handle Difficult Behaviors

Won't bathe

Possible causes:

Modesty, privacy feels invaded, dislikes bathing aide, uncomfortable (too cold, afraid of water), feels unsafe (afraid of falling), had a prior bad experience, dementia makes him or her unaware of need to bathe or forgetful about basic hygiene

What to do:

  • Start by asking in a friendly, nonaccusatory way, "Why not?" That will give you insights into how you can help. Fear of falling down? Water too hot or cold? A lack of awareness of his or her hygiene (could flag dementia)?

  • Make sure the bathing process is comfortable, in a warm, safety-proofed bathroom with a shower chair and grip rails.

  • Provide as much modesty and privacy as possible. It may be time to switch from showers to baths, or from baths to sponge-bathing. Allow the person to remain partially clothed (or robed) if that's more comfortable.

  • Allow the person as much control over the process as possible; take care not to "baby." As much as is reasonable, let your loved one choose how to bathe.

  • Find out how to help someone with Alzheimer's who refuses to bathe.

Stay Connected With

Get news & tips via e-mail