Updated: Dec 9, 2022
A common challenge in caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is showering. There are many reasons for this, including fear of the water or vulnerability or perhaps an old memory of abuse or crisis. But often it is simply because the person is no longer able to sequence the steps needed to go from fully dressed to getting inside the shower and actively showering. If you think about it, breaking down the act of showering results in many sequential steps. For the person with Alzheimer’s who is now unable to sequence, this is an overwhelming task, which they may not be able to understand themselves and/or articulate. Because their emotions remain intact, this “stalemate” could also be embarrassing to them.
Mindful of their emotions, including sense of pride, dignity, and modesty, family members and/or caregivers should approach the topic of showering delicately. Rather than telling the person he/she must shower, reminding them of how great they feel from the shower may be better received. Suggesting they try a new shampoo or bath loofah or sponge that you just picked up may make the shower activity more inviting and less threatening.
Most importantly, provide a sense of privacy for the person even when having to assist them with undressing, getting in and out of the shower, and if you need to help them wash. Demonstrate taking off tops and pants as you suggest they undress while you get the shower started and water warmed up. Then keep your back to them while readying the shower so they can have privacy undressing. Offer a terry cloth bathrobe or a towel to drape around them as you assist them getting into the shower. Reassure them that their privacy is being respected and you want them to feel comfortable.
~ Joan F. Wright, CDP, CADDCT