Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the UK affecting 850,000 people, with numbers set to rise to over 1million by 2025.
Those with Alzheimer’s suffer symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with language and problem solving. As the disease progresses, more symptoms occur with delusions and hallucinations occurring in advanced stages.
These changes can make daily tasks we all take for granted, such as bathing, difficult for the person with Alzheimer’s to perform and accept as a necessity. As anyone caring for someone with Alzheimer’s will know, this resistance can prove challenging both physically and emotionally, but it’s vital to find solutions as bathing is vital for good hygiene and to avoid discomfort and even infection.
Whilst the amount of help someone needs will be different depending on the stage of the disease, when helping someone with Alzheimer’s to wash there is some general advice that carers might find useful.
Make sure the bathroom has good anti-slip properties, either by using anti-slip mats or specially adapted shower trays and baths with good anti-slip surfaces. Ensure any cleaning products are removed from the bathroom to prevent accidental misuse. In some cases, removing the lock may be a good idea so that the bathroom can be accessed in an emergency.
If assistance is provided in the bathroom take into account the person’s feelings. They are likely to feel more comfortable with someone of the same gender who has a good rapport with them. Consideration should be shown to how and where the individual prefers to get undressed and whether they prefer a bath or shower. If they dislike water coming out of a shower head, try using the shower head to wet a sponge or flannel in order to apply soap and rinse it off, instead of using the shower spray directly.
Keep the person engaged and making decisions. Sometimes having a job to do, such as holding a sponge or soap can keep the mind occupied. Enable independence by providing helpful reminders such as where to step or what to do next in the bathroom routine. Pass sponges, soap and towels to them and provide encouragement. If memory loss is causing issues, perhaps try a wall chart calendar with each wash day marked and let the person cross off the day after each wash. In this way their previous mark will serves as a reminder that they wash regularly and that wash day is due again.
Bathing aids and equipment
It may turn out that significant changes are required in the bathroom to make bathing safer and easier for a person with Alzheimer’s. Wet rooms are an ideal solution as there are no steps to negotiate, the floor can be all one anti-slip surface with no colour breaks, and shower seats can be used to prevent people standing up throughout the bathing process.
Absolute Mobility has installed many bathroom solutions for people with dementia and would be happy to provide advice if you are now considering a bathroom refurbishment for someone living with Alzheimer’s. Please feel free to call us on 0800 29 22 110.17 November,2016