As caregivers of adults we know that bathing the patient is not as simple as bathing a small child. We know that not only the size and strength of the patient are far more obvious to deal with, but so are any adult experiences this patient may had had. We cannot expect that the patient will readily except our help or for that matter prefer our help.
Frequently people with dementia do not understand or feel comfortable with others touching them and this can cause numerous problems for both patient and caregiver. There is a tip for bathing any adult we are caring for, that will provide for far less stressful situations and concerns by all. When bathing a person with dementia, brain injury or mental health diagnoses you may feel either physically or professionally at risk. Using this technique will help relieve these concerns.
First of all it is important when bathing an adult if at all possible to have another person present. There is always a concern for fall risk. However, when there is no one else to help plan out the bath procedure ahead of time. Usually, having a person in the bath tub is of significant risk to both caregiver and patient, so a shower is the likely choice.
- Lay out clothes (for after the bath) from skin out. (shoes and socks, bottom – pants and shirt, next – underclothes on top)
- Place all bathing items within easy reach in bathing area. (towels, washcloths, soap, shampoo etc.)
- Bring the patient to the door of the bathing area and explain what is going to happen. (do not just say “it time for your bath”, rather first ask “are you ready for your bath”?)
- Now help them take off their clothing, place this clothing out of the way but not out of sight.
- Turn on the water and allow the patient to feel the water to determine comfort of water temperature.
- Now help the patient sit in the shower.
- *This is the most important part of bathing a patient. You get the wash cloth ready to bath with (wet and soapy) now give the wash cloth to the patient. It does not matter how far into the disease process they are, the only thing your hand should touch is the back of their hand with the wash cloth in it. The patient should feel only their own hand touching their body.*
- When done, let them dry themselves as much as possible. Be sure to have feet dry before attempting to stand.
- Walk them to dry, clean clothes, sat them down and allow them to dress themselves as much as possible. If help is necessary, offer only to help with that one item and always make sure you offer, before helping.
You may feel this is going to take a great deal of time, however it actually takes less and safes innumerable incident reports. What has just occurred is you bathing another adult allowing for the self-respect and privacy which should be at the forefront of your goal. This technique will make this a more pleasant process without pulling, struggling and in some cases frightening.
If you are a professional caregiver chances are you don’t know the patient’s past. They may have been assaulted or worse. You are a nonthreating person when you use this technique. You will have them dressed far more quickly, especially with their help.
And if they refuse a bath, let them refused. Go back and ask a little later or even try a different time of the day, say night verses morning. You can always allow them to just wash off at the sink, sometimes. Your patient is not a logger, auto mechanic or small child playing in the mud.
Remember to preserve the patient’s dignity and you will find life as a caregiver 100% easier.