When caring for someone with dementia, bathing can be the most difficult personal care activity a caregiver performs. Add cold weather to that equation and it becomes even more challenging. I interviewed some of our most skilled caregivers and I would like to share some tips from the professionals that will help make bath time easier. It is important to note that our caregivers are bathing clients in bathrooms that are prepared for safe bathing including grab bars, hand held shower attachments and padded shower chairs.
Top Ten Tips for Bathing
- Gather all needed supplies in the bathroom and put them where you will need them:
- Body wash
- Shampoo and conditioner ( we generally try to use a 2 in 1 shampoo to make hair washing faster)
- Warm towels
- Wash cloths
- Set out clean clothes where ever you are going to help client dress.
- Put 4 large towels in the dryer and get them warmed up for before, during and after bath.
- Include your client in decisions about taking a bath. Would you like to take your bath now or after we eat a snack? Which fragrance of body wash would you prefer to use today during your shower?
- Make sure the bathroom is warm. Raise the heat before bath time in the winter. Wrap a warm towel around client as you help them undress both to keep warm and for privacy. It is worth getting several towels wet as you bathe them if that helps them feel comfortable. Also fold a towel on top of shower chair so they are not sitting on a cold seat.
- Have washcloths on hand so they can help wash themselves or so they can cover their eyes when you wash their hair.
- Make sure the water temperature is just right for them. Keep a dialog going of what you are doing, reassuring them that you are almost done.
- Enlist clients help, whether its holding the body wash bottle or helping by washing easy to reach body parts (forearm or thighs) using simple directions. You can also place your hand gently over their hand to help them wash themselves.
- Use another warm towel to pat dry and make sure all areas are dry. Keep another dry warm towel around them as you help them dress.
- Put the lotion bottle in a container of hot water so by the time they get done with bath it will be warm and feel good when applied before dressing (always check lotion temperature, it most likely will not get too hot employing this warming method but you never want to squirt cold lotion on someone. If lotion not warm rub between your gloved hands before applying.)
- Once they are dressed make sure you offer lots of compliments for how wonderful they look. If they are not too tired, follow the bath with a special treat like a cup of tea and a cookie so the whole experience ends up feeling positive.It is not necessary to bathe an elderly client every day. Usually 2 to 3 times a week suffices with a sponge bath in between bath days. Thanks to our wonderful caregivers for sharing their tips and advice!