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Have you ever faced the daunting challenge of bathing someone with dementia? For many caregivers, this task can lead to stress and conflict, often referred to as the "Battle of the Bathing." In this episode, we uncover three practical strategies to navigate this challenge with grace and understanding.

Understanding Their Story

Firstly, understanding the life history of the person with dementia is crucial. Their past experiences with bathing and personal hygiene can deeply influence their current behavior. For instance, someone who grew up bathing in a lake might be bewildered by modern showering. By appreciating their background, caregivers can tailor their approach, reducing fear and resistance.

Creating a Comfortable Environment

Secondly, the environment plays a significant role. Many bathrooms can be cold, sterile, and intimidating. Transforming this space into a warm, inviting area can make a world of difference. Think spa-like vibes—soft lighting, pleasant scents, and soothing music. Using adaptive equipment like shower benches or specially designed towels can also enhance safety and comfort.

Managing Expectations

Lastly, managing expectations—yours, not theirs—is vital. Recognizing that daily showers may no longer be necessary or feasible is a part of this process. Instead, focus on what is comfortable and manageable for both of you. Observing and adapting to their natural rhythm can help establish a more harmonious routine.

Practical Support for Caregivers

Beyond these tips, support is available. Free workshops offer a chance to learn more and connect with others facing similar challenges. For those seeking deeper assistance, a low-cost group membership program provides ongoing support, enabling caregivers to learn from real-life scenarios and expert advice.

Remember, you're not alone in this journey. By joining the "Dementia Caregiving for Families" Facebook group, caregivers can find a community of support, sharing both challenges and solutions. Together, we can navigate the complexities of dementia care, turning daunting tasks into moments of connection and understanding.

By employing these strategies and seeking support, caregivers can transform the battle of bathing into a peaceful, even pleasant, routine. Let's approach dementia care not just as a series of tasks but as an opportunity to provide love, respect, and dignity to those we care for.

Read More:

What Do Dementia Caregivers Need Most: A Christian Perspective

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How to Prevent the Battle of the Bathing in Dementia Caregiving


Battle of the Bathing  in Dementia Caregiving

[0:01] I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from family caregivers that one of their biggest struggles as a family caregiver is the battle of the shower or the battle of the bathing.
In today's episode 101, we're going to talk about three easy strategies of how you can prevent the The Battle of the Bathing in Dementia Caregiving.

[0:27] Music.
Struggling to wrap your head around how to be a Christian caregiver?
Searching for answers by joining countless Facebook groups but find them toxic?
Learning how to cope with dementia feels difficult, but learning a Christian caregiving worldview can be easy. Hey, brother and sister in Christ.
I'm Lizette, occupational therapist, pastor's wife turned dementia coach, and a daughter of dementia.
In this podcast, you will learn the truth that the way to make dementia care easy is your faith.
Knowing that a loving God has decreed this hard providence in your life makes all the difference. Here you will gain skills.
You will be challenged by what God says in his word about caregiving, and you will learn exactly what dementia is and is not.
Find clarity and certainty from God's word so you have perseverance for the strength.

[0:32] Have you recently found out someone you love has dementia?

Understanding the Person's Story

[1:38] Music.

[1:53] Diagnosis.
I want you to imagine something for me today.
I want you to imagine it is shower day.
The fight starts. You say to the person that you're helping with dementia, it's time to take a shower.
What are the responses? No, I've done it earlier today, or I took one yesterday.
Yesterday, it may sound like, I'm not dirty. I don't need to take a shower.

[2:26] Or you might get them in the shower, but once they're in the shower, it is a constant battle and a constant fight.
They may be crying, kicking, screaming, hitting, any type of behavior that is extremely difficult than for you as a family caregiver to try to help the person that you love.
Well, today's episode 101 is the episode that's a little bit more practical, the how to prevent the battle of the bathing in dementia caregiving.
Now, my approach might be a little different to some some of the other approaches that you have heard or seen when you Google search how to help somebody shower or bathe with dementia.
I am a unique and different person, and I come with unique and different ideas, but I promise if you stick with me today, you're going to get tremendous value you in this episode where we are going to look at it under three different ideas or three different points.
The first point that we're going to look at is.

[3:53] You have to know the person that you're helping's story, their story, not your story, but their story, and their story related to their entire life.
And I will give you some examples of actual people that I've worked with over the last 30 years, that the background in the history and their story was absolutely integral into understanding why they were having, quote, unquote, the battle of the bathing.
The second thing we're going to look at today is how to create a comfortable environment for the shower.
And then the third thing we're going to look at is how to actually manage expectations.
And we'll talk about that a little bit further in this episode.

[4:50] So if you haven't been to my free workshop yet, I do a free monthly workshop and I invite you to come to it. it.
The workshop's title is The Stressed Caregiver's Workshop or The Stressed Out Caregiver's Workshop.
And I'd love for you to come and spend a couple of hours with me so you can get to know me a little bit better so that you can actually ask me questions because these are live workshops where we actually can interact.
So if you haven't been to one of these workshops.
I'd invite you to register for the next upcoming workshop here in April, and I look forward to having you there.

[5:43] All right, so I cannot tell you how many family caregivers have told me that one of the biggest struggles that they have with dementia caregiving is the The Battle of the Bathing.
It is such a hot topic related to dementia and dementia caregiving that everybody always talks about it because it's.

[6:07] It can be an extremely difficult and an extremely challenging occurrence that comes around very, very frequently.
And so I want you to consider that even though the battle of the bathing is difficult for you as a family caregiver, I want to reframe it for you in a perspective of of, it's even harder for the person that you are taking care of.
I don't know about you guys, but most of us from the age of a toddler, two to three years old, once we're able to start to take our shower by ourselves.

[6:47] We're not used to people bathing us.
We're not used to taking a shower, we're having other people watch us.
And many people, myself included, have a lot of issues related to modesty and maybe their own body or their body image, etc.
So that's one thing that we have to keep in the back of our mind when we're helping somebody with such a personal and intimate thing as taking a shower or taking a bath.
But related to what we're going to talk about today and something that's a little bit unique and different from other people out in this care economy is I want you to start, which is our first point, by knowing the person that you were helping take a shower, I want you to know and truly understand their life history or their story.

[7:51] This is all about them. It's nothing to do with you. They are not fighting you because it's you.
They are fighting you or they are reluctant to take a shower because of their life history, their story. Now.

[8:10] How do I know this? I know this because, and we talk about this frequently in my coaching programs, that one of the biggest things that we need to understand about dementia and dementia caregiving is the concept of retrogenesis.
Well, what is retrogenesis?

[8:32] Retrogenesis is the idea that That if you just take the two words, retro means back and genesis means to the beginning.
So a person who is progressing through a dementia journey will continually over time start to regress back to the beginning of their life, their story, their history, their background, and how they grew up.
And any time in the continuum of a dementia care journey, we can be at any given point in that life story related to anything.

[9:21] Whether it be bathing, whether it be, you know, trying to leave the house because I think I'm on my way to work.
Or, you know, not wanting to take a shower.
So how does this come out specifically related to bathing?
Well, I had a very interesting conversation with a current client earlier this past weekend where we were talking about some of the challenges that she, as a family caregiver of a person living with dementia was experiencing.
I am very excited to announce this next part of our journey together.

[10:06] Once a month, on a Thursday evening, I'm going to do a segment called Ask the Dementia Coach, where you can actually come into a coaching session with me and.

Creating a Comfortable Shower Environment

[10:22] Music.

[10:35] I know so many of you guys are struggling on your own and may feel like you're at the end of your and in order to help serve you better, I wanted to open up this opportunity once a month for you to register for a free Ask the Dementia Coach segment.

[10:56] Like I said, it will be Thursday evenings Once a month, 6 o'clock Eastern Time in the evening, and the segment is called Ask the Dementia Coach.
So if you're interested in signing up for that, the link will be in the show notes below, and I look forward to seeing you on one of these special sessions.
And one of the things that she mentioned was that she was struggling with her husband taking a shower.
And so we started to unpack that a little bit.
And we talked about the fact that he may need prompting to go take a shower, or he may need more physical assistance and those kinds of specifics related to the shower.
And that is what we do when we actually coach.
We unpack each particular person's unique and different journey and give you solutions for them.
So one of the things that came out in our conversation was that he was a Native American who had grown up and was now an adult.
And what What was fascinating about the conversation was that.

[12:20] The moment she said that he grew up in a very poor Native American home, immediately what went through my head was, how did they take a shower or clean up when he was a child?
How did they take care of that?
What did it look like? Did they have indoor plumbing or did they just do sponge bathing or how did they actually take a shower and get clean?
And she explained to me that he, once his dad started to work for the railroads, they would go and they would shower at his father's work.
But before that, they didn't even necessarily do sponge bathing.
The kids would go swim in the lake and that was how they cleaned up.
And so that is an example of one person who has a very unique and different background life story related to bathing and cleaning up and what that looks like.
And so some of the things that we talked about was how frequently would he take a shower or wash up spontaneously and a couple of other strategies that we unpacked during this conversation.

[13:45] A second person that I worked with many years ago was a very similar situation.
Situation and this gentleman had grown up in rural West Virginia and he was one of a very large family of children and they only took a bath once a week.
Once a week on a Saturday, they would take a bath, not a shower.

[14:11] And they all used the same bath water and he was the last child.
So I contend that the water was cold and dirty and he probably didn't want to take a bath.
And so one of the things I had his wife do, because she also was frustrated and annoyed and bothered by the fact that her husband, who had always taken a shower now wasn't taking a shower anymore.
And so what I had her start to do was a quick little dementia diary.
She just logged when he would spontaneously take a shower.
And it came out in her documenting this, that he would take a shower about once every seven to 10 days and that he did that spontaneously.

[14:59] And it was almost like his body clock, his awareness was about a week at a time and that he knew that every week at home when he was growing up, he had to take a bath.
And so he would spontaneously go take a bath.
And so one of the things that I really want you, if you are struggling to take care of somebody related to taking a shower is sit down and critically think about how this person that you're loving and helping grew up.
Did they take a bath? For example, I'm from South Africa originally.
We did not have showers when I was growing up. We had a bath.
We didn't even have a shower in in my sister and I's bathroom growing up, we just had a bathtub. My grandmother had a bathtub.

[15:55] When I went to boarding school, we only had a bathtub. The boarding school actually had showers.
And to be very honest, that's the first time I remember independently ever really taking a shower was when I was in high school.
And so depending on me and where, if something were to happen to me, it could be anywhere along the spectrum where maybe where I am living at that moment in time, I wasn't taking a shower.
I was only taking a bath and that putting me in a shower where there is water coming on my face and on my head, I may not understand that anymore and be afraid. I do not know.
So understanding, the first point, is truly knowing and understanding the person that you are helping, their life story, how they grew up, particularly related to bathing, and not your life story related to being together over whatever period.
If it's your spouse, it would be your story together.

[17:13] Or if it was your parent, if it's your parent, it would be your story together.
I want you to think critically and bigger than that.
I want you to think about their life story, how they grew up, where they grew up, and what it might have looked like when they were washing up.
So the second point that we're going to look at today is creating a comfortable environment related to taking a bath.
There are so many factors that could be playing in to your loved one's reluctance to take a shower or a bath, more than just their life story.
And one of the things that is one of the most frequently observed when I was working with people both at home and in facility-based care is that a lot of.

[18:10] Bathrooms are extremely cold.
Sometimes they have very little contrast.
They're all white. think of a nursing home, bathroom, they are all white.
I've been in people's homes where everything in the bathroom is white.
The toilet is white. The floor is a light colored.
The shower enclosure is white. The shower curtain is white.
There is no contrast of different colors or different surfaces.
So the person who is living with dementia may be afraid because they cannot see where the edge of the tub is, where the corner of the seat might be.
All of these different types of things could be occurring, making them feel afraid.

[19:09] Or they may be frozen. They may be cold.
They may not be able to tell you that the water's too cold or the water is too hot, or I'm afraid that I'm going to fall.
And so they look like they are resistant, or they look like they are fighting you to give them a shower.
So you may want to consider critically looking at the bathroom environment and not, again, from our perspective, but from the perspective of somebody living with dementia.
Is it so open and that when you're in the bathroom, it is very cold?
Can we fix that using a space heater or a hot lamp or something something to warm up the environment?

[20:05] Are there ways that we can bring in other tools, invest in other tools, like the blue hug that I had on this program earlier this season, which is a shower garment made of neoprene to keep the person warm and to maintain their modesty?
What about something something like a shower poncho or a mobility towel, who I'm going to be inviting onto this podcast soon, which is a weighted towel that can give a little bit more sensory input into the person.
So perhaps it could be more comforting.
Can we consider making it a soothing environment instead of a cold and sterile environment?
Can we encourage our spouse or our parents that we are giving them a spa treatment and truly make them feel special?

[21:08] Using special smelling things, things, scents and, you know, textures and things that they have always enjoyed so that it makes it more comforting, so that it makes it less scary.

[21:23] Using the right equipment. And sometimes a person with dementia may still be able to step into the tub.
And so we don't think about it that it might be scary for them because they're not telling us, but because they physically can still do it, we think that they're okay.

[21:44] Really critically looking and investing in the right type of shower equipment can make a tremendous difference in the ability to help the person who is taking a shower.
I'll use my mom as an example here related to the environment.
My dad helps her with the shower. I don't help her with the shower, however I have in the past.
And one of the things that I invested in for my mother was the right type of shower bench.
And it is actually a sliding shower bench, which I would never have thought.
Did you know that caring for a person with dementia doesn't have to be this hard?
If you are struggling and you would like to join our next free workshop, the topic of the workshop is three tips how to avoid challenging dementia behaviors without stress, anxiety, or burnout.
I invite you to walk away with science-backed dementia caregiving skills that many professionals don't even know after attending this free workshop.

[23:06] If you'd like to register, message me the word workshop on Instagram or check out the link in the show notes below.
I would consider for my mom, but it was the right equipment at the right time.
So creating a comfortable environment.

[23:31] Cultivating a spa-like experience, soft lighting, a candle, scents, maybe a little background music, whatever it is to try to make the environment feel enticing.
Relaxing another suggestion is a terry cloth robe to put on so that you can soak up some of the water instead of trying to dry them in the shower and then get out and stay by a warm spot and then work on on finishing drying put some lotion on truly cultivate a sense of of touch a sense of community, a sense of love and affinity for the person, and always ask permission before you touch so that you don't startle the person.
And if they look like they are getting a little bent out of shape, just back off a little and give them some space.
Remember, a person living with dementia Dementia is very much in tune to your emotions.
So if you are uncomfortable providing the shower, they are going to sense it.
And that could be some of the resistance that you might be experiencing.

[24:56] So you kind of have to fake it till you feel it.
You kind of just have to say, I am a daughter and this is my father.
Get over it, Buttercup. It's just a male anatomy.
And the more you are comfortable with this task yourself, the more comfortable

lizette cloete

Managing Expectations in Dementia Caregiving

[25:18] the person that you will be helping will be.
So the third point, and this is probably the thing I see in my coaching with people.

[25:31] The most, and that is managing expectations.
Now, Lizette, what on earth do you mean managing expectations?

[25:43] Well, guess what? I mean managing my expectations as the family caregiver because the person living with dementia may not have the same expectations that you have. have.
The person living with dementia has probably taken a shower every single day of their life or nearly every single day of your life that you've known them.
If you're a child, you know, you've always known your parents to be able to take care of themselves, be clean, to go take a shower or a bath by themselves without any assistance.
If it's your spouse, you probably have known them to be be independent with this particular task their entire life.
So the challenge comes when we as the family caregiver are not managing our own expectations of the person who is living with dementia.
And so I'll use the one patient that I had many, many years ago who grew up in West Virginia, one of the biggest struggles we had in working through this, his wife and myself.

[27:02] Had to do with the fact that she had an unrealistic expectation of her husband.
And I have noticed over the years that when expectations are not being met, they're not being met in one of two ways.

[27:22] I want you, if you're listening to this podcast, to imagine a line across in the middle of a page, and that is where the person who is living with dementia is functioning.
And then I want you to see a line above that and a line below that.
So when we have the line above that, that is sometimes times when a family caregiver is expecting a person living with dementia to still be able to do certain things without any assistance.
And the reality is the person living with dementia is on that middle line.
And they may not have the ability to initiate taking their shower by themselves, or they may not have the ability to understand the passage of time and truly believe that they just have taken a shower, or whatever it could be.

[28:24] When there's an expectation of the family caregiver that they should still be able to do it, but the person actually isn't able to do it.
So the second way that expectations sometimes are not met is when still the person living with dementia is on that middle line.
But when the family caregiver believes and thinks that they are not able to do things that they are actually able to do by themselves, and that creates creates frustration.
And so the expectations, when expectations are not met on either end of that spectrum, either the family believes that they should be able to do stuff, or the family believes they're not able to do stuff, the reality is.

[29:15] The person living with dementia is at a certain point where they can do certain things and they may be frustrated because you're not allowing them to do things for themselves.
Or you might be frustrated because they're not doing what you expect them to be doing.
So when I was working with this person's family caregiver, my patient's family caregiver, she had an unrealistic expectation that her husband should be able to spontaneously get up and take a shower every day like he had done for the past 50 years of their marriage.
And so a lot of what I had been working on with her throughout that period of time was identifying the factors of his life history, which was that he would spontaneously take a shower every seven to 10 days.
And that we had to manage her expectations that taking a shower every single day was not going to be a realistic or reasonable expectation of him doing it himself.

[30:28] One of the challenges was that if she tried to make him take a shower, it would result in an argument, some challenging behaviors, behaviors, and a lot of negative types of situations occurring in the house.

[30:47] So one of the other things that we had noticed as we were working together was that he would take a shower when he knew that I was coming to visit to do my home health visit.

[31:00] And he would also take a shower when he knew he was going to go out for lunch with a friend.
So we were able to cultivate a routine and a way for her to help him take showers more frequently by building in these structures, which then helped her manage her expectations a little bit better.
So, this episode today is just three practical ways for you in this episode to be able to prevent some of the challenges of the battle of the bathing in dementia and dementia caregiving.
If you have not been to one of my free workshops, I invite you to come.

[31:46] They are really, they're about two hours long. They are very interactive.
I ask people questions. If you're willing to come off camera, we will actually have a dialogue and I will help you take care of whatever it is I can on the workshop.
It is a small investment of time.
And if you're interested in coming to the workshop, this next workshop is called the Stressed Out Dementia Caregiver's Workshop.
So join me on this next free workshop coming up in April.
And I really look forward to being able to serve you a little bit better by giving you a little bit more time with me. so you can get to know me.
But if you are ready to work a little bit deeper together, I invite you to join the low-cost group membership program that is ongoing.
It is a year-long commitment, and I'm specifically doing it in a year-long commitment because the research shows knows that family caregivers need assistance more frequently throughout the time.
It does not mean you have to come to every group coaching call, but you're certainly welcome to come to every group coaching call.

[33:14] But what's even better about the group coaching calls is that if you cannot come to them, you can actually listen to them a couple of days later on your cell phone, kind of like a a podcast, so you can still benefit from learning from real-life situations that real-life people are experiencing, just like yourself.
So if you're ready to join, just shoot me, just go to Dementia Caregiving Made Easy forward slash join, and you can join there, or you can look in the the show notes below.
Regardless, I'm here to serve you and may the Lord bless you and keep you and I will see you in the next episode.

[34:01] Thanks for joining me today, Success Seeker. I pour my heart and soul into this program to serve you.
You can serve me by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts and join our free Facebook group, Dementia Caregiving for Families.
It's a positive and proactive space to navigate dementia caregiving together.
Get practical tools and find support, but without the verbal vomit.
Be a part of our community where we seek to find peace of mind and ease, despite the dementia diagnosis.
So join today and see you next time as our flight takes off.

Subscribe To Dementia Caregiving For Families Podcast

If you feel like dementia caregiving is hard and unpredictable and you are struggling to help a spouse or a parent living with dementia, join our next free workshop.

Join our Facebook Group at: 

Become a  Member of Our Exclusive Program!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

About the author

“Think Different” Dementia’s owner, Lizette Cloete, OTR/L graduated as an Occupational Therapist from the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1992. Lizette has almost 30 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist in a variety of settings, the latest being in the home health environment. She enjoys teaching on the topic of dementia, most recently presenting at a national conference on the topic “Dementia Made Simple”.

Disclaimer: These blogs, videos and any work done by Lizette Cloete OT, as a Member of Think Different Dementia, LLC, is given only as educational content and consulting work. This does not create an Occupational Therapist-Patient Relationship. The educational content and consulting work performed should not be considered medical treatment as an Occupational Therapist. The consulting work does not take the place of medical work normally performed by a licensed Occupational Therapist. Please consult a licensed Occupational Therapist for medical advice.

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