Caring for the Personal Hygiene of Those with Dementia

Dementia is often a frustrating condition, and those who care for people with dementia may sometimes find themselves at a loss, despite their best efforts. Odd behaviors may keep cropping up with no clear solution to the problem. Here’s a look into why these behaviors might be occurring and what you can do to deal with them.

Refusing to Bathe

This is one of the most common and frustrating problems you’ll come across. A variety of issues could be contributing to their refusal to bathe. They might be embarrassed to be seen naked, or they may have had previous negative experiences with bathing, such as slipping and falling or the water being too hot or too cold. They also might not like being told what to do or can’t remember all the steps involved, so they avoid bathing to avoid the embarrassment.

There are many ways you can go about handling the problem, but it often depends on the underlying issue. If they’re embarrassed to be seen naked, try covering the mirror; they might perceive your reflection in the glass as other people watching and may become frightened. If they’ve had previous negative experiences with bathing, start associating positive things with bathing and the bathroom in general, such as listening to music or eating favorite foods. Also, keep the bathing itself simple. Once you’ve figured out the best way to bathe, stick to it and keep the routine consistent so that it soon becomes soothing and comfortable.

Wearing Dirty Clothes Repetitively

You may notice that your loved one wears the same clothes over and over again without washing them. They may enjoy the familiarity of these particular clothes, or they may just forget that they haven’t been washed. It’s also possible they choose the same outfit day after day, despite its dirtiness, due to the fact they feel overwhelmed by all the choices and just pick what they wore the day before.

To solve this last problem, simply reduce their options. If they wear the same clothes over and over due to the familiarity, buy identical replacement outfits so that they can wear one while you wash the others. Also, try not to remove soiled clothing in front of your loved one since it might upset them; instead, take their clothes away at night while they’re sleeping. As long as there’s a handy outfit waiting for them in the morning, they’ll be fine.

Trouble with Grooming

Many people suffering from dementia have trouble styling their hair, shaving, or taking care of their teeth. They may forget the tasks entirely, or they may not be able to identify or use the tools involved.

Modeling use of the tools, especially use of a toothbrush, may be helpful. It’s also important to back up your efforts with trips to the dentist. Make sure you let the dentist know that the patient has dementia so that they can schedule extra time; the same is true of a trip to the hair stylist. Keeping things simple also applies here—it might be easier to let a man grow out his beard or “accidentally” cut hair too short.

Simplicity is often key, and so is kindness. Caring for those with dementia is no small task, but it’s an important one. Use these tips to help you understand and care for your loved one so that they can live as comfortably as possible.

Categories: Care Giving Tips and Resource Center.

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