2. HAVING THE SHOWER
Find out the person’s previous shower routine and washing habits where possible. eg what order they like to wash their body parts and try and do in a similar order.
Make sure you have a rubber mat down to ensure they do not slip over.
Get the person to hold onto hand rails in shower if you have them.
Showers with a flexible head that can also be attached to the wall are preferable. This gives you the freedom to be ‘hands free’ if required, or be able to reach difficult places of the body with the flexible head.
Turn on the water and test the temperature before the person goes under the water.
Be wary of the water pressure. It can be a scary event for a person with dementia as to them they may see the shower as a jet of water blasting from the wall that may harm them. Try not to hit them in the face with the water straight up.
Allow the person to feel the water before entering the shower. If the person is refusing to get undressed, turn the shower on as a ‘trigger’ that it is shower time.
If they feel the water first with their hand it can sometimes be instinctive for them to then remove clothes.
Let the person feel part of the process and empowered by allowing them to wash themselves if they are able. Place soap in their hands and guide them to wash selected parts of their body.eg “now do under your arms”. (*note – this may not be possible as the disease progresses)
Remove clutter from within the shower. The person can sometimes grab the shampoo bottle after you have already done their hair and re apply. If you remove the bottle after you use it, it will reduce the temptation for them to grab it. This may be the same with soap.
Make sure you go over all the areas of the body with soap even if the person has already
done them. This will ensure they are as clean as they can be.
Avoid confusing the person by talking too much or giving too many instructions in
Clean very quickly across private parts or get them to do it themselves if possible.
Prepare the person by positively talking to them as you shower them.
Praising the person (not in a child-like manner)as they do things is really important. It
keeps the person upbeat and more likely to be less difficult.
If the person is becoming negatively focused on the shower process you may need to distract them by chatting about something else, asking them to hold something etc.
If the person is refusing to take their pants off for example (due to their cognition) you can try tricks like discreetly wetting their pants with the shower head. The pants will become heavy and the person may naturally remove them because of this.
I prefer to let the person remove their own pants if possible. It is a sensitive area and the person may be reluctant.
Many carers are hit when they do not warn the person as to what they are about to do. eg removing pants/underwear. Be respectful of their modesty.