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How to Help Someone with Dementia Bathe

  • Why is bathing challenging for people with dementia?
  • Preparing the bathroom to bathe someone with dementia
  • Making bathing more comfortable
  • Help with bathing and personal care in Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Brampton


Bathing and showering are things that many of us take for granted. Whether we need a shower to clean up in the morning or a quick rinse before bed, the feeling of being clean is a crucial part of keeping us happy and comfortable.


However, bathing and showering tend to pose unique challenges for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. In many cases, they require support from family or personal care workers to ensure they keep up with their hygiene.


Why is bathing challenging for people with dementia?

There are three distinct reasons why someone with dementia might be neglecting to bathe or shower over time:


  1. Memory problems: Since Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are degenerative cognitive conditions that affect memory, the person might simply be forgetting to bathe. This is especially noticeable when they’ve always paid particular attention to staying clean – an early warning sign that they may be touched by dementia.


  1. Stress and confusion: Someone who is confused might view the bathroom as a dark, frightening place. The toilet might be too loud, the water from the taps too hot or cold, and the shower a scary enclosed place. They might even be frightened by the “stranger” in the mirror and refuse to go into the bathroom.


  1. Loss of independence: Bathing is a personal, private experience for most people. When someone loses the ability to take care of themselves independently, the thought of a family member or professional healthcare worker helping them can be alarming. When faced with the choice of someone bathing them or not bathing at all, the person might choose the latter.


When someone with dementia stops washing, they may need assistance to protect their health and help them feel comfortable. However, helping an older adult bathe can be stressful for both the elderly loved one and the caregiver. Planning is the key to minimizing the discomfort involved and creating a positive experience.


Preparing the bathroom to bathe someone with dementia

Before starting the bath or shower, make sure everything in the bathroom is safe, ready, and comfortable for the person with dementia: 


  • Plan bath time around the times of day they would typically bathe or shower 
  • Make sure the bathroom floor isn’t slippery, and install safety bars and a non-slip bath mat in the bathtub to prevent slip and falls 
  • Cover mirrors if reflections and shiny surfaces upset the person
  • Prepare a sturdy shower chair the person can sit on, especially if they are unsteady and need the added support
  • Use a hand-held showerhead to make showering easier
  • Check the water temperature before they get into the tub or shower
  • Ensure the soap, washcloth, towels, and shampoo are all ready before the person comes into the bathroom
  • Avoid using bath oil, as it can make the bathtub slippery and lead to urinary tract infections
  • Make sure the bathroom is warm and well-lit, and play soft music if it helps the person relax
  • Be prepared to assist them in and out of the bathtub if necessary, and take care not to strain your back when doing so 


It’s crucial to have everything ready to go when the person is in the room. This way, you don’t have to leave to get anything. 


Remember: Never leave a frail or confused person alone in the bath or shower. 


Making bathing more comfortable

The key to bathing someone with dementia is twofold: making someone feel comfortable and respected while ensuring you do an efficient job washing them. 


It’s understandable for either or both of you to feel uncomfortable when you’re helping someone undress and wash. In most cases, it’ll be up to you to set the tone. It’s as easy as simply acting with kindness and respect, in a way that you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. 


This means not rushing through the process and keeping the conversation relaxed and light-hearted. You can also gently let the person know what you’re going to do next, as in, “Now we’re going to wash your back.” If the person becomes upset, you can use the redirection technique to help them focus on something else while washing them.


If the person feels self-conscious, you can use a dressing gown or towel to change behind. They can also use them to cover parts of the body you’re not currently washing, or you wash them under the towel.  


When washing hair, use a no-tears shampoo or cover their eyes with a washcloth when rinsing. You can also opt to wash their hair in the kitchen sink if that’s easier for both of you.


Sometimes, people with dementia become upset at the prospect of no longer being able to do simple tasks that were once routine. You can help restore their confidence by encouraging them to participate in the process. Let them pick the soap or body wash you’ll be using, and encourage them to wash themselves as much as they can. Jumping in to do it all from the get-go could cause them to stop trying, thereby losing their independence faster. Assess what they’re capable of at first and provide help when needed.


Once the bath is finished, pat dry with large fluffy towels to prevent rashes. They can then wrap themselves in the towel to stay warm.


Help with bathing and personal care in Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Brampton

Bathing and personal hygiene are crucial parts of dementia care because they are integral to the person’s sense of identity. Being clean and refreshed also helps them feel comfortable and happy. 


If you need help bathing an elderly loved one or someone with dementia, CareHop can help. Our thoroughly screened and trained personal care workers specialize in helping older adults with everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing and personal hygiene, housekeeping, meal prep, and more


We’re also specialists in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care, providing professional, reliable support while bringing added joy and sunshine into their lives.


Get peace of mind knowing that your elderly loved one is well-cared for with CareHop. If you’d like to learn more about our services, give our team a call anytime.

About the Author

Michael Lu is the founder of CareHop. He started the business inspired by his Grandmother to look at ageing as a happy experience to bring sunshine into the homes of others.

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