One of the earliest signs of cognitive functioning decline and dementia in the elderly adults is no longer bathing regularly. A family caregiver may notice an increase in body odor, notice their senior's hair looks greasy or unwashed, or may see other signs of neglected hygiene, such as dry or irritated skin. Not bathing regularly and even resisting bathing are extremely common issues associated with dementia.
This can be caused by a wide variety of factors, including an elderly adult not remembering why they need to bathe, how to bathe, or when they need to bathe, or fears and discomfort associated with water. Seniors with dementia may even experience changes in the physical sensation of water and be very susceptible to changes in temperature or pressure.
As a family caregiver, it is extremely important for you to encourage your elderly loved one to stay clean and fresh. This is an important part of physical health as well as their perception of themselves. Keeping your aging parent clean is also an important step in keeping you healthy as you care for them.
Use these tips to encourage a senior with dementia to bathe regularly:
Make it a part of the schedule. Routine and predictability are very important for elderly adults who are living with dementia. When they have a schedule they follow on a regular basis, your senior feels more secure and is better able to anticipate what's next. If bathing is just what they do on a particular day of the week at a particular time, then they will anticipate this activity and be more willing to go along with it, simply because it's what they do.
Remind your loved one. Remember that your aging adults might not remember why they need to bathe, or when they last bathed. Gently remind your senior about the importance of keeping their body clean, and offer a reminder that it may be time to take another shower. Coinciding this with a special activity or event is a great way to give your parents something to look forward to so they get through the process more smoothly. For example, tell your senior they need to "freshen up" so you can go out to eat.
Focus on the positives. Rather than just thinking of bathing as a singular task, help you parent to focus on the other benefits of staying clean. Remind them of how good the warm water feels, that it will help to relax their joints and muscles, that they love the smell of their shampoo, or that they will feel it so fresh and comfortable when you change the sheets on their bed right after they shower.
Take each step individually. Rather than presenting at the entire task, encourage your aging parent to get through each step. If they are uncomfortable with the sound of the water running or watching the water fill the tub, warm up the bathroom for them and start running the water so all they have to do is step into it. Then help them to undress and put on a robe before going into the bathroom. Then help them into the bath or shower and go through each body part individually. This can help to reduce anxiety and make your parents feel more in control.
Being a family caregiver doesn't mean overlooking your own needs. Being stretched in this role can leave you vulnerable to mental, emotional, and physical health challenges, diminish your effectiveness as a caregiver for your parent and in your other roles and reduce your overall quality of life. Having senior care as a reliable resource in your daily life allows you to focus on your own needs and the other elements of your life while still feeling completely confident in your parent's health and safety as they age in place.
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Wherever their home may be, our caregivers can help keep your loved ones safe. Call our local Toronto office at (647) 793-2525 to learn how senior care services can assist your family.