Bathing With Dementia

high angle view of senior man collecting jigsaw puzzle as dementia rehab | Bathing With Dementia | featured

Bathing is a particularly sensitive issue for elderly people with dementia. Those with dementia become confused easily and often misinterpret what others are doing and saying.

In such individuals, often even the smallest thing that is unpleasant such as water in the eyes or ears can make the individual respond with fear or violence.

RELATED: Is Dementia Hereditary? Is It Avoidable?

A Guideline For Bathing Without a Battle

Focus on the Person More Than The TaskLatina caretaker with senior woman smiling-Dementia

Try to meet individual preferences and focus on the well-being of the person. Always protect the person's privacy and dignity (such as covering the person with a towel after turning off the water and in transfers)

Be Flexible!Young carer walking with the elderly woman in the park-Dementia

Modify your approach to meet the person's needs. Methods such as singing and talking with the individual while bathing can distract him or her from the fear, anxiety, or shame of being bathed by someone else. Be flexible with the procedure divide up tasks such as washing hair and washing the body.

Use Persuasion, Not Coercionworried senior woman touching husband suffering from dementia-dementia

Help the person feel in control at bathing time. Give choices and respond to individual requests. Avoid asking “Do you want to take a bath?” when you know that the answer will be “no”.

Instead, say something like” It's time for your spa, would you like body wash or a bar of soap? Would you like to wear the green and tan outfit or the blue one?” Use a supportive and calm approach and praise the person often.

Ask questions that are not exasperating or that have maybe two or three answers. Sometimes questions with endless possibilities can overwhelm a person with dementia such as “what you want to wear?”, try and narrow the question down to 2 or 3 possibilities.

Be Prepared!Close-up of hands putting stack of fresh white bath towels on the bed sheet-Dementia

Gather everything that you will need for bathing before approaching the person. Warm the room (no one has a good experience bathing when they are cold and wet). Have towels, washcloths, and clothes ready.

If required, get a shower chair and bath mat securely in place. All of these small preparations can help with making the person feel comfortable and relaxed.


Overwhelmed old senior man suffering alone at home feeling confused sad alone on couch-Dementia

When a person becomes distressed, stop and assess the situation. It is not “normal” for a person to cry moan, or fight during bathing. Look for an underlying reason for their behavior.

What can you do to prevent the person from becoming more upset? If you are unable to calm the person you will need to shorten the bath. In such a case wash only what is necessary for good health. If the person becomes too distressed or aggressive you will need to end the bath.


Try to end with something pleasant such as offering a cup of coffee or a back rub. This may make it easier when you return. Reproach the person later to finish washing critical areas if necessary.

Ask For HelpSenior with dementia or Alzheimer's is comforted by caring female doctor-dementia

Talking with others about ways to meet the needs of the person gives you an opportunity to find different ways to help make the bath more comfortable.

Whether it's speaking to their family or other carers or medical professionals who have dealt with the individual, these conversations can only help in giving you a clearer understanding of their personal likes and dislikes.

Their loss of privacy, independence, and possibly dignity can be difficult for the individual with dementia to understand. There are many factors to consider when dealing with bathing, in what most carers would agree is one of the most challenging aspects of dementia and personal care.

For further information on excellent suggestions on bathing elderly residents with the condition, please refer to the Alzheimer's Association bathing with dementia page. To find a range of dementia care homes in your area that are registered with the CQC, visit

Trusted Care – Alzheimer's Society-

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