Helping another person with personal care needs, such as bathing, dressing and assistance with using the bathroom, can be uncomfortable for all involved. It’s hard to put modesty aside, and feelings of vulnerability can come into play. And at times, older adults, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, can become overly distressed while receiving help with these necessary tasks, to the point that it may result in a battle of wills.
These outbursts can be triggered by a variety of causes, which vary based on each individual, but in general, they may be a result of:
- Loss of control. Independence and autonomy may feel like they’re slipping away for seniors, and keeping control over the most basic functions becomes critical to them.
- What can help: Let the senior maintain as much control as possible, and come up with compromises instead of pushing the senior too far. If she insists on wearing an unmatching outfit, for example, allow her that freedom.
- Adherence to tradition. Standards of hygiene when today’s seniors were growing up were different from today’s, and a weekly bath was the norm. A senior whose memory is unclear may revert back to those days and balk at the idea of a daily bath or shower.
- What can help: Using positive, motivating language can sometimes encourage the senior to see things from a different perspective. For example, use bath time as a springboard to a fun activity, such as a lunch date for which she certainly will want to look and feel her best.
- Fear of the experience. Bathing and dressing in older age can be fraught with fears, and often rightfully so, such as the fear of falling in the tub or while getting onto or off of the toilet. Some seniors with dementia also become fearful of the sound of running water, or may become distressed by the feel of water that’s too warm or too cool.
- What can help: In-home modifications to enhance safety, such as grab bars beside the tub and toilet and elevated toilet seats, can reduce the risk of falling. Using a soft, soothing voice and explaining each step of the process in advance can also help.
The tips below can also help minimize fear and anxiety:
- Always allow the senior as much independence as possible to enhance self-esteem.
- Plan ahead for optimum comfort by keeping the room warm, using comfortable lighting, and maintaining as much privacy as possible.
- Place clothing out for the senior in the order each item should be put on, offering gentle guidance for each step as needed.
At Hillendale Home Care, we understand the difficulties that can surround personal care tasks, and we’re here to help with trained, experienced caregivers whose ultimate goal is to make sure that each senior feels at ease, safe and respected. Contact us at 925-933-8181 for more tips or to partner with us for trusted in-home dementia care services to give both your senior loved one and yourself peace of mind.