Many adults are embarrassed to have others assist them with personal grooming activities such as undressing or bathing. As a caregiver you can take steps to make the experience more comfortable for you both.
1: Monitor Grooming Needs
- Brush the person’s teeth or clean dentures daily. Your dentist can help you with denture care.
- A complete bath may not be necessary every day. A sponge bath is an alternative.
- Check that fingernails and toenails are trimmed and cleaned.
- Remember, you may need to change your standards to fit the persons abilities.
2: Set a Routine
- Schedule grooming activities for the same time and place each day. For example, help the person brush his or her teeth after meals or bathe each day before dressing.
3: Respect the Person
- Close doors and curtains and pull down blinds for privacy.
- If the person seems embarrassed while bathing, wrap a towel around his or her shoulders.
- Consider the person’s past grooming habits. For example, a woman who used to wear makeup can still wear lipstick.
- Tell the person what you are doing. For example, “I’m going to brush your hair now.”
4: Make Grooming Safe
- Try rubber mats to help reduce slipping in the bath. Make sure there are no puddles of water on the floor.
- Always check the temperature of the bath or shower water.
- Try handrails or a bath chair.
- Keep medicines off of bathroom counters and out-of-reach.
- Make sure that the person who dresses him or herself is dressed appropriately for the weather and activity.
- If the person wanders, choose brightly colored clothes that are easily seen.
5: Offer Support
- Praise the person and offer compliments when he or she is clean or dressed.
- Give encouragement as the person completes each step. Try
- “You did that very well” or “You did a good job brushing your hair. It looks lovely.”
- Offer the person a reward, such as a favorite food or activity, when he or she successfully completes a task.
6: Be Flexible
- Choose shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
- Try washing hair in the sink or having it done by a hairdresser or barber.
- Give the person a bath if a shower is upsetting or consider using a hand held shower.
- Buy two of the same outfits if the person likes to wear the same thing every day.
- Choose clothing that fastens in the back for someone who repeatedly takes off his or her clothes.
- Try brushing only the outside of the teeth if the person refuses to open his or her mouth.
7: Allow the Person to Help with Tasks
- Allow the person to do as much as they are able. For example, a person who can’t style his or her hair may be able to use a brush.
- Give the person enough time to complete the task without feeling rushed.
8: Make the Person Feel Comfortable
- Choose the most relaxed time of day for bathing and grooming.
- Make sure the bathing area is warm and well-lit
9: Prepare in Advance
- Have the bath water ready or the toothpaste on the toothbrush.
- Lay out the washcloth, towel and clean clothes for a bath.
- Stack clothes in the order that they are to be put on.
10: Simplify Activities
- Gently talk the person through each step of an activity.
- For example, give the person one article of clothing at a time when he or she is dressing.
- Offer one of two choices, such as blue or grey socks.
- Eliminate accessories that can be put on wrong, such as belts or scarves.
- Keep visible only those clothes that the person will be wearing.
- Have the person’s hair cut in a short, attractive style that needs minimal care.
Adapted from Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) Educational Materials with permission. www.alzfdn.org