Trends In Aging: Self care can be difficult for those with dementia

By Wendy McHaney
March 21, 2014 at midnight
Updated March 20, 2014 at 10:21 p.m.

Wendy McHaney

Wendy McHaney

Self care can be difficult for an Amber when it comes to bathing, as often times, they perceive this as an unpleasant or threatening experience.

People with dementia often become resistant because the person doesn't remember what bathing is for or doesn't have the patience for being cold or uncomfortable.

Loss of independence and privacy can also be very difficult for someone with dementia. Use the following tips to help an Amber adapt to the bathing process:•  Set a regular time for bathing

•  Be gentle

•  Simplify the process

•  Coach through each step

•  Use cues to remind what to do

•  Use a tub bench or bath chair

It is very important to make the bathroom as safe and comfortable as possible by installing grab bars, placing nonskid mats on the floor, watching for puddles and lowering the thermostat on the hot water heater to prevent scalding.

Prepare the bathroom in advance of bathing by gathering supplies, warming up the room and placing supplies within reach. The following are important cues to help ensure an Amber feels in control during bathing:•  Fill the tub with 2 to 3 inches of water, then assess the reaction to getting in. Fill the remainder of the water after the person is seated.

•  Be sure to give the Amber a role in the process - holding the washcloth or shampoo bottle or use hand-under-hand to help assist in the process.

•  Have activities ready in case the Amber becomes agitated.

•  Protect the Amber's dignity and privacy by utilizing a blanket or towel while undressing.

•  Be flexible. If the amber is resistant, don't push - try again later.

Upon exiting the bathtub, be sure to have a warm towel ready. Check for rashes and sores, especially if incontinence or mobility is an issue.

Seat the Amber while drying off skin and putting on fresh clothes and be gentle on the skin by patting dry rather than rubbing. Apply lotion and talcum powder where needed.

Senior Helpers hosts Alzheimer's and dementia support groups from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. every other Thursday at Copperfield Village, 501 E. Larkspur St. and from 3 to 4 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 407 N. Bridge St.,

Call 361-894-8901 for more information about these support groups. Previous columns on the stages of dementia as well as other trends in aging can be found on the website,

Wendy McHaney is a certified senior adviser and the owner and director of operations of Senior Helpers. For more information about Senior Helpers, visit



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