Probably the ‘no.1 hotspot’ for frustration for people with dementia (and their carers) is the bathroom. Showering is difficult and exhausting, and everyone seems to end up wet. I have decided to share my favourite showering tips across 3 sections :
1. Preparing for a shower
2. Having the shower
3. After the shower
There are no set rules as to showering but you need to remain flexible. As the disease progresses you may need to change your showering methods as the person may have less mobility, less cognition or be experiencing health factors. Please feel free to comment with any tips you may have.
1.PREPARING FOR A SHOWER:
- People with dementia DON’T seem to like taking showers. A big mistake to make as a carer is to waste energy on trying to convince the person to have the shower and arguing with them.
- They will more than likely refuse to take a bath or shower every time you ask. As a carer you need to ACCEPT THIS. If they take the shower willingly…consider it your lucky day!
- It is better to attempt to shower the person everyday, as opposed to twice a week. With people with dementia establishing the ROUTINE cannot be underestimated. It doesn’t matter if you succeed everyday, but is great if you can establish a pattern (eg shower the same time each day).
- How often should they have a shower? No set rule…but I would aim for at least 3 times per week. Some cultures do not have showers for weeks. having a regular shower will reduce the risk of urinary infections etc.
- BE ORGANISED – prepare some fresh clothes in advance inc pull-ups, pads etc…I usually lay out the complete outfit (inc shoes) and make sure everything is unbuttoned, untied and facing the right way prior to showering – this will keep things efficient.
- Pre-prepare your towels and flannels. I take in 3 towels (one for foot towel, one for face/hair, one for body) and 2 flannels. It is worth the extra towel washing afterwards to have a smooth shower experience within the bathroom.
- Have all toiletries on hand and mentally run through your routine to ensure you have items lined up in order ready to go. I start our routine by brushing the teeth first at basin, then moving straight into undressing, then showering.
- Warm the environment – turn on the lights and heat lamps and make the bathroom a cosy place to be in. Maybe even have some soft music playing.
- Some people are very modest when it comes to taking a shower. As carers we need to RESPECT THEIR DIGNITY and do small things to protect their modesty. eg turn your head away where possible, cover them up quickly etc
- Expect the “No’s!” when it comes to showering – try and keep things light hearted and relaxed and say something like ” Let’s get all nice and clean, and then we can make you a nice breakfast”. Keep everything POSITIVE and remind them how good it feels to be clean.
- Avoid lengthy explanations, keep it short and simple where possible.
When ready to take them to the shower, gently approach them and try and get their attention, aim for some positive rapport and keep things light and happy. Then reach your hand out to them (palm facing upwards) and wait for them to take it.
- I like to emphasize that “WE are going to have a shower now”. I believe that if you do it as a ‘team’ it is a shared experience and will make them less likely to resist (as we are doing it together).
- If in a care facility, I prefer to have less people in the bathroom ( is less confronting for the person with dementia). If two carers are doing the showering I would rather have one carer making the bed while the other washes the person. The carer not in the bathroom needs to be super alert as to what is happening inside the bathroom and be ready to fetch an extra towel or lend a hand if the carer doing the showering calls for them. Effectively the 2nd carer will act as their support person/assistant and is a critical role to how smooth the shower process goes.
- Don’t be bossy when showering! You are better to calmly GUIDE THEM.