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How to Help Dementia Patients With Personal Hygiene

personal hygiene

Have you noticed your loved one looking increasingly disheveled? Are they forgetting to put on clean clothes or take regular baths?

These are all signs that dementia patients show when they forget to keep up with their personal hygiene. And these struggles can start to show in patients with mild to moderate cognitive decline.

They may become embarrassed that they’re unable to take care of themselves or forget how to do regular tasks.

To make this process as easy on your loved one as possible, let’s look at ways to help dementia patients with their personal hygiene.

Careful Communication Is Key

Discussing personal hygiene care with a dementia patient can be tricky. They could become argumentative, embarrassed, and even confrontational. But showing patience and continual reassurance can help you overcome any communication obstacles.

If they seem reluctant at first, or refuse altogether, don’t force them into any personal grooming. Try another time when they are more relaxed.

You can also try reasoning with them. Tell them they’ll feel fresher. Or they’ve got to get ready to go out soon.

If they continue to decline, drop the subject and leave it for another day. If trying it again another day still doesn’t help, you may want to consider getting professional help.

Keep It Simple

The many steps in the personal care process can be overwhelming to a patient with dementia. Keeping their routine as simple as possible will help with any anxiety.

Try breaking the task down into simple steps, calmly explaining each as you go. Or you can try a mirror technique, brushing your teeth while they brush theirs. This lets them “copy” your movements.

Give the person limited choices. Like asking them if they want to have a bath or a shower. Brush their teeth now or before going to bed.

Lay their items out in sequence. Such as the soap, washcloth, towel, and then their clean change of clothes. Keeping it in order will help them know and prepare for what’s coming next.

Make It Seem like Pampering

One way of defusing an embarrassing or awkward situation for both of you is to take a different approach. Make it sound like you want to pamper them instead.

Offer to treat them to a day at the hairdresser. Tell them you’d love to run them a relaxing, warm bubble bath. Or pamper them with a trip to the nail salon or at-home manicure.

That way it feels like more of a treat to them rather than an embarrassing or stressful event. It can be a time they look forward to and helps them feel special.

Protect Their Dignity

Feeling exposed and needing help can be humiliating for your patient. That’s why it’s so important to help them maintain their dignity during any personal hygiene tasks.

If possible, have them undress themselves. You can give verbal prompts to help out the process.

Make sure you close the curtains and blinds in the bedroom or bathroom. And use a towel to help cover their body when getting in and out of the bathtub.

Allow the patient to wash as much of themselves as possible, especially in private areas. Using a handheld brush or towel may make this easier for them.

And if their reflection could startle them, or even frighten them, cover the mirrors before they enter the room.

Use Helpful, Safe Equipment

Fear of being out of control can add to the anxiety and uncooperative behavior from a patient. But by using special fixtures and equipment, it can help them feel more independent and at ease.

Install a handheld showerhead in the bath. It can give the patient more control over their bathing and not seem as scary if they don’t like water in the face from a regular shower head.

Shower rails, bath seats, and other bathroom aids can help the patient feel more in control, while also keeping them safe.

And if the patient seems too fearful of the bathtub completely, try using a wash basin instead.

Make the Room Comfortable

Having help during the bathing process can make a patient with dementia feel uncomfortable. To keep them at ease, try to do everything you can to make the room environment as comfortable and relaxing as possible.

Adjust the room temperature to a comfortable level. Play soft music in the background to help keep them calm. And make sure the lighting in the room is adequate enough to not make it feel claustrophobic.

Keep their clothes, towel, or any other familiar object within eyesight. They will recognize it as theirs and makes the room feel more comfortable.

Also, try chatting with them during the bathing process. It will keep their mind off of what’s going on and will likely put you both at ease.

Stick to a Routine

Try using as much of your patient’s previous personal hygiene routine as you can. Even if this means the patient doesn’t bath as often as you think they should. It’s important that you don’t force any of your own habits or routines onto them.

If your patient used to bathe in the mornings before the onset of dementia, then keep to a morning routine. And stick to the type of bathing which is familiar to them, whether that be a bath, shower, or sponge bath.

Or you can approach personal hygiene tasks during the part of the day they seem more relaxed.

Personal Hygiene Increases Quality of Life

Keeping proper personal hygiene is important for the health and identity of dementia patients. And by approaching it with care, reassurance, and compassion, you can decrease their anxiety while increasing their quality of life.

Need more help caring for your loved one with dementia? Contact us today! With two locations in the Tampa area, we’d love to show you our facilities and customized approach to senior living.