May 4, 2009 -- Question: How do I get my loved one with Alzheimer's disease to bathe?
Answer: Well, personal hygiene can be an issue later in the illness, again, a little early in the illness as well. The most important thing is to try to make the bathing experience least threatening and so to create a regular habit, a routine, around it. And that depends, of course, on the circumstance, whether we're talking about being at home, or whether we're talking about being in a long-term care facility.
But allowing the individual to make as many decisions as possible for themselves -- what kind of order they'd like to do things, and getting them to feel like this is their bathing process and not yours.
The problem, often, is that people in long-term care facilities don't have a lot of time, and so that it is important to try to give the person enough time to adjust to these circumstances. And, once again, knowing the individuals habits: How did they bathe before they had these memory problems? And, again, that information can be obtained from family members, or knowing people who know the person in past days.
Knowing people's individual habits, and then, of course, being very respectful about personal privacy. Because most people are used to bathing alone, and so having somebody helping bathing is a challenge for many people. But again, getting into a routine, getting the person to be invested in that routine -- that's the key.