Do you care for a person living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia? Has bath time been a struggle for you both? It’s easy to understand why that may be: All of your adult life you have bathed or showered in privacy, using a routine that fits your personal preferences best. Now imagine someone else trying to undress and bathe you? How would you feel? For most people, bathing is a highly personal matter, and that doesn’t change if dementia sets in. That’s why we put together 7 tips to help make bath time a little less stressful:
1) Consider their preferences.
When living independently, did the person you are caring for prefer to take a bath or a shower? Did they prefer to bathe early in the morning or evening? And which toiletries did they like to use? (Favorite shampoos or soaps, etc.) The more you know and the more you follow their preferred hygiene routine, the more natural it will feel to the person in your care.
2) Respect their privacy.
If at all possible, have only you and the person you are caring for in the room. The more people join you, the more awkward and uncomfortable the experience will likely be for the person living with dementia.
3) Put yourself in their shoes.
One surefire way to have a more understanding and compassionate bathing experience for you both is to visualize yourself in the role of the person being bathed, and how you would feel. Empathy is crucial to compassionate caregiving, and can help you develop a more respectful care approach.
4) Heat up the room.
No one likes to take off their clothes in a cold room. Turn the heat up so the space is nice and cozy (you as the caregiver should be sweating). A hot room will make it less likely the person will resist taking their clothes off; they might even want to!
5) Get into a non-threatening position.
When dementia sets in, a person’s peripheral vision (how much you can see out of the corner of your eyes) gets smaller and smaller. So you want to make sure not to come at people from behind (a big no no!) or the side. Instead, gently approach a person from the front and then crouch or sit down (at or below eye level) on their dominant side. Why? While you want to first approach them from the front to make sure they see you, staying in front of a person can be seen as threatening. So once you know they are aware of your presence, move to their dominant side where they keep most of their muscle memory. And why does muscle memory matter?
Watch this short video excerpt of “The Art of Caregiving” with Teepa Snow to find out.
6) Use strong visual clues.
Be respectful and communicate to the person what you are about to do BEFORE you do it, step by step.
To do so, use strong visual cues paired with short and poignant verbal cues. In example, mimic washing your armpits and tell the person “I’m going to wash right there” before you move to touch the person.
7) Maintain a physical connection.
Place one hand on their shoulder and leave it there while using the other hand to wash the person. This creates sense of security and comfort for the person you are caring for. Try this for yourself: Have a friend or coworker mimic doing personal care on you. Now have them place their hand on your shoulder and repeat the same task.
Can you feel the difference?
To check out the full list of tips, go here.