Bathing can be the hardest part of personal care for your loved one living with dementia. Because bathing is so personal, your loved one may not be comfortable with any kind of assistance. As the dementia advances, bathing can become even more challenging, but even in the early stages, it is good to know and keep in mind your loved one’s bathing preferences, before dementia was an issue.
Did s/he take showers or baths? What routine did s/he follow—morning, evening, or another time of the day or night? What bath/washing articles were favorites? The more familiar the smells and textures of bathing soap, towels, washcloths, etc., the better. Most people living with dementia prefer their bathing caregiver to be of the same sex.
Get ready in advance. Prepare a warm bathroom with all your supplies, soap, washcloths, and towels handy so you do not have to leave the room to get anything once you have started the routine. Make sure it is safe before you begin. Make it clear that you respect your loved one’s concerns for privacy and modesty as much as possible. Make him/her feel as in control as you possibly can. Provide a role in the process for your loved one. Tell him/her what you are going to do before you do it, and approach from the front so s/he can see you are not a threat. It may help to maintain contact once you have established it—with your hand on a shoulder, communicating security.
Monitor your loved one’s daily care, providing help and guidance as needed. Make regular dental visits to avoid serious problems down the road.
Honor your loved one’s style of dress as much as possible while keeping choices to a minimum. Make sure that whatever the outfit, it is clean, comfortable, and easy as possible to put on and wear. Keep clothing organized and guide him/her to sensible clothing for the climate and weather of the day.
Continue grooming as part of the day’s routine just as it always was pre-dementia, and demonstrate combing, brushing, help with shaving as needed.