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Caregiver Tips: Washing and Bathing Someone wirh Alzheimer's Disease

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Updated: November 9, 2006

Hygeine and Personal Care for People with Dementia

One of the most common activities for caregivers is to help with with washing and bathing. Although helping with personal care can quickly become routine for the caregiver, it is important to remain sensitive to the fact that someone with dementia or Alzheimer's disease may view things very differently. In the more advanced stages of dementia, the person may have no memory of previously being helped with personal care. As a result they may feel anxious, embarrassed, and vulnerable.

Tips to Reduce Anxiety


  • Deep Baths
  • can create anxiety for someone with dementia. A shallow bath is generally better and setting up a bath seat can reduce concerns about struggling to get in or out of the bath.
  • Incontinence
  • can be a sensitive issue and something many adults feel ashamed about. When helping with undressing it is often best to adopt a matter-of-fact approach and to remove soiled garments away from the person in a quiet and efficient manner without drawing attention to the situation.
  • Showers
  • are effective and hygienic, especially if incontinence is a problem. Overhead showers can be disorienting for people with dementia so a hand-held shower might be better.
  • Self-consciousness
  • is commonplace when the person is undressing or when naked in the bath or shower. This is difficult to avoid but a steady, confident and reassuring approach will help. If assisting with washing, it can help if only the part being washed is uncovered.
  • Isolation
  • can cause anxiety. To overcome this it can be helpful to remain either in the room or within earshot of the person. People who have Alzheimer's sometimes worry that they will slip, struggle with equipment or clothing, or may simply not want to be alone.

    Make Preparations



    It can sometimes take a while to encourage someone to wash. The caregiver can avoid needless frustrations by making sure the bathroom or wash area is ready before it needs to be used. Some tips for this:

  • Make sure there is enough hot water.

  • Put towels, shampoos, and soap within easy reach.

  • Provide a toothbrush, sufficient toothpaste, or other necessary dental care products.

  • Ensure the area is warm and free from drafts.

  • Deal with hazards, such as wet patches on the floor or obstructions en route to the bathroom. Put a non-slip mat in the bath or shower.
  • Assisting With Personal Care


    If the person is able to do things for themselves this should be encouraged. Sometimes little reminders about what comes next can help the person along. It may help to pass the soap or the towel when this is required. If things get into a muddle, a little humor can help to lift the atmosphere and reduce anxiety.
    Sometimes the person may not be as diligent with their personal hygeine as you would like. Be patient. Remind the person to wash certain parts of their body if this is required and be prepared to revisit the issue if the person becomes stubborn or wants to do things later.


    Source adapted from::
    "Carers Advice Sheet: Washing and Bathing." Alzheimer's Society Dementia Care & Research. November 2005. Alzheimer's Society. 9 Nov 2006 http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/Facts_about_dementia/factsheets.htm.

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