My wife is so resistant to taking a bath or shower. What are some strategies I can use to make the experience more comfortable and nonthreatening for her?
Personal hygiene and bath times are particularly taxing on caregivers who are trying to care for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.
Keep in mind that even though bathing is important for proper hygiene, you should never force your wife to bathe. Making the experience pleasant and nonthreatening can offer her some security and comfort at this most vulnerable time. At what time of day did your wife usually take a bath or shower? Try to keep that structure and routine.
Was it a bath or did she enjoy showers? If she enjoyed showers in the past, it might be now that the water flowing on her head makes her anxious and that a tub bath is more suitable.
Prepare the environment prior to taking your wife to the bathroom. If you can, play some of her favorite music and offer some soothing aromas. Light some candles. Hang some familiar family photos on the wall or other pleasing pictures. Create a total sensory and welcoming setting to calm her, allowing her anxiety to subside. Take her mind off the “action” of bath time by engaging her in conversation, such as reminiscing, sharing family stories, telling a joke, etc.
Make sure you place everything by the bathtub that you need as you don’t want to leave her alone to grab a bar of soap or a towel after you begin the bath.
Focus on your wife not the task, and be sure that she has a role in the steps of bathing.
Keep the temperature of the water comfortable and above all, offer her privacy. Make sure safety precautions are in place, such as nonslip rugs and surfaces, good lighting, etc.
Keep the process simple and always allow her the opportunity to bathe herself. You can assist her by being a “path,” — putting the washcloth in her hand, with your hand underneath, gently guiding her to wash herself. Be encouraging and offer praise and support and reassure her by letting her know each step you are taking to give her a bath. Continue to carry on a dialogue to ease her discomfort. Sing along with the music you are playing or talk about a particular photograph or painting on the wall. Above all, keep the process simple and be relaxed.
Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.