Strategies for Bathing

There are many practical strategies that caregivers can use when a person with Alzheimer’s disease is reluctant or refuses to bathe.  Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Evaluate the best time of day for bathing.  You should consider when in the morning or evening that your loved one is most relaxed.  This may require you to change previous schedules that worked in the past, but may not work now.  Being flexible is a key strategy for both you and the person you are caring for.
  2. A cold or uninviting environment can cause more problems with bathing.  Make sure that the bathroom is warm enough, and consider putting your bath towels in a dryer for a few minutes prior to use.  This can increase the comfort for the person you are assisting and increase participation.
  3. Try to have the bathroom completely prepared prior to bringing in your loved one to bathe.  Having all the supplies ready and in arms reach will limit the amount of time a person receiving help will have to wait.
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  5. Stay positive and never reprimand a person who needs assistance with bathing.  It is important not to humiliate your loved one with repeated reminders that they need assistance and are in need of a bath.  Instead, provide a positive atmosphere during the experience using a calm tone of voice, an occasional smile, and a sensitive approach.
  6. Evaluate the actual need for a bath.  It may not be necessary to bathe everyday as was done when there was more activity in the life of your loved one.  It may be possible to reduce full bathing to three times a week and utilize towel baths in between.
  7. Try breaking up the bath into smaller components that may be more acceptable to the care recipient.  For example, wash the face and neck one day.  Then the next day, wash the arms and upper body.  The next day, wash the lower body, legs and feet.  You can break it up in any way that works for you and the care recipient.

Core Principles of Care:  Safety, Comfort, Respect, Autonomy

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