Date: May 7, 2024

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna

Dementia and hygiene issues often go hand in hand. As cognitive abilities decline, you may notice your loved one is no longer interested in staying clean or fulfilling any of their usual hygiene routines. But why won’t dementia patients shower? Let’s explore some of the reasons dementia patients refuse to bathe and what you can do to make the process easier for you and your loved one. 

The early stages of dementia are not usually associated with hygiene issues. Typically as the patient progresses to the moderate and severe stages of dementia they begin to struggle. Stage 5 of dementia is when bathing issues become prominent. The same thing can happen with Alzheimer’s patients who are struggling with a similar cognitive decline. 

Around stage 5 of dementia, things that used to seem simple and routine begin to feel complex. The patient may not remember the routines or they may forget why they need them. That time of day that may have been comforting and ritualistic now becomes challenging and annoying.

Parts of the hygiene routine may also become scary. Bathrooms are cold, water hitting you can be scary and uncomfortable, being naked provokes feelings of vulnerability, the patient may fear falling – there are many reasons your loved one may not want to bathe. 

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How to Help a Dementia Patient with Hygiene

No one wants to fight with their loved one to get them clean every day. Furthermore, attempting to reason with a patient with Alzheimer’s or dementia will not work – not because they are being difficult or defiant, but because their brains simply do not function that way anymore.

Instead, start a conversation. Ask questions about why your loved one does not want to bathe and get creative about how to help. Make the bathroom as warm and inviting as possible. Play soft music to help create a relaxing atmosphere. Choose products with scents that your loved one will enjoy or that may evoke positive memories. 

When it comes time to ask them to bathe, try not to get frustrated or impatient (easier said than done, of course). If they refuse, ask them again later. Stay calm and respectful while you help them bathe, frequently offering encouragement and compliments.

If bathing every day simply isn’t going to happen, don’t stress. Try sponge baths in between showers. Wash hair separately in the sink or use dry shampoo. Create a visual schedule. As always, professional help is out there if bathing becomes too much for you to handle on your own. 

Being a Caregiver for someone with dementia is not easy, especially as they move through these moderate to severe stages. It feels as though there is just one challenge after another. Remember to take care of yourself and seek support systems when you need them. You are not alone. 

Date: May 7, 2024

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna

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