1. You asked: When asked a yes or no question a person with dementia may not understand the question and automatically answer with a resounding NO to avoid agreeing to anything they may not want.
Why? Because it’s one of the first words we learn when beginning to speak. It’s short and powerful and it works if we repeat it often enough. Instead of asking, get everything ready and then gently say, “Your shower is ready,” and lead him or her into the room.
2. Room Temperature: When preparing the room make sure it is very warm. It may feel like a sauna to you but to someone who is frail it could still feel chilly. Make sure the water is warm also but make sure it isn’t hot. Test it as you would before bathing an infant. Have plenty of soft, warm towels at hand. Warming them in the dryer just before shower time is a good idea.
3. Modesty: Most of us have some body issues and are reluctant to have others see us naked and this could be especially true of an elderly parent being bathed by one of their children. It’s perfectly okay to wrap a towel around their chest and one over their lap and bathe them through the towel. They maintain their dignity, stay warm, and get clean all at the same time.
4. It’s Scary: Imagine sitting naked on an uncomfortable seat in a little room with sounds echoing around you. You’re not sure why you are, how you got there, or what’s going to happen. Then all of a sudden something starts falling out of the sky and hitting you on your head, chest or back.
Dementia affects vision as well as memory and other functions. The person in your care cannot see the water falling from the shower head. It’s confusing and frightening and they want nothing to do with it. (Note: The next time you shower pay attention to the water flowing from the shower head. How well can you see it?)
To help alleviate the fear and confusion use a hand- held shower head and start at their feet, moving very slowly up the legs, talking softly as you go along, have their favorite music playing if you can. Let them wash themselves as much as possible.
When bathing is complete wrap them in warm towels even before leaving the shower and remain in the warm room until they are complete dry and clothed.
Will this work all the time for everyone? Probably not. There will come a time when showers and baths are no longer possible and bed baths are the best you can do. Until then, try some of these suggestions they may make things just a little bit easier for both of you.