Completing self care activities including dressing and bathing can be a stressful and frightful experience for the patient with dementia. They are exposed, potentially in an unfamiliar environment and all too often being made to follow the lead of another person.
Let’s talk about 5 steps we as practitioners and caregivers can take to promote the agency and independence of the patient with dementia–improving their experience and yours all at once!
1 – Prioritize and promote their ability to make decisions
Giving your client agency on choices will help associate your assistance–and the completion of self-care tasks overall–with a positive emotion.
Yes, this means taking the hard no or modifying your expectations for completion of the bathing and grooming task. While it may not be ideal, completing even a small part of a bathing routine
If your person is able to, giving them simple choices will make them feel more in control over the task overall and decrease feelings of being tricked or controlled. Simple choices like what soap to use or if they want to wash their hair or body first will help your person feel more autonomous.
To read more about intervening and helping your patient with dementia manage distressed behavior, check out this article!
2 – Lean on old habits
Your person may have a preferred routine for how they wash themselves or complete a grooming task–like brushing their teeth before they wash their face, or always bathing in the evening versus the mornings.
Using these routines and habits to your advantage will decrease the likelihood that your person will feel unsafe, frustrated or frightened and potentially decrease the amount of assistance of cues they require to complete grooming/bathing.
Again, this returns as much control to your person.
3 – Protect privacy
Try to have a familiar caretaker or preferred provider assist with bathing when possible to reduce feelings of being exposed. Self care for those dementia can be made easier if there is a safe relationship already established with a trusted carer.
Keep towels on-hand for them to cover up with if they find that more comfortable
Be sure they have access to washcloths and towels in-hand while assistance is given so they can participate and/or cover up.
4 – Minimize steps when possible
Minimize steps with 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioners or body wash/shampoos. This will reduce the amount of time spent on the bathing task overall
Reduced steps also allows your person to have more autonomy over completion of the task with potentially fewer cues for completion–setting them up for success.
Grab this handy self-care checklist to help with communication when working with your patients with dementia!
5 – Address potential fears to increase willingness
Knowing your person well will be a major strength in identifying what potential barriers or causes of fear may be ahead of time.
For example–It is not uncommon for people with dementia to have fear around stepping into a tub of water; ways to work around this potential barrier would be filling up the tub while your person is already there, using a shower hose or taking sponge baths.
Learn More with ARC Seminars!
Undoubtedly, promoting agency with people with dementia can help patients live safer, more comfortable, and more independent lives. Visit ARC Seminars today to learn how we empower clinicians to treat intimidating conditions like dementia and more!
Plus, register for our self-paced seminar ‘Settled and Secure’: Managing Challenging Behaviors Associated with Dementia to access applicable techniques and skills for engaging with patients, building rapport, and fundamentally improving the way you work with clients.
Interested in more clinical tips, articles, and resources for your practice? Sign up for our bi-weekly mailing list below! We promise to treat your inbox with the respect and love it deserves.