The Bristal Assisted Living Blog

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A Guide for Caregivers: How to Make Bathing, Grooming, and Dressing Easier for Adults with Alzheimer’s Disease

Personal hygiene can be one of the more challenging aspects of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Difficult behaviors like aggression and anxiety are not uncommon, and are usually the result of changes in the brain caused by dementia. While discouraging, there are practical steps caregivers can take to make bathing, dressing, and grooming easier for adults with Alzheimer’s.

Bathing Tips for Alzheimer and Dementia Caregivers

Regular baths or showers are essential in helping prevent skin and urinary tract infections. Unfortunately, bath time can sometimes become a tense time for adults with dementia and their caregivers. When it comes time to bathe, aggression, crying, and screaming are sometimes a reality, which can be very frustrating, as well as exhausting for caregivers. Try to remember that your loved one’s reluctance to bathe may be due to their feeling vulnerable or embarrassed by having another person helping them. Patience paired with a few practical tips may make bath time easier for both you and your loved one.

Get a Doctor’s Note

If your loved one is resistant to bathing, this simple tip from VeryWell Health may be useful. Ask your loved one’s physician to write a ‘prescription’ for a bath. When your loved one argues, pushes back, or perhaps refuses to bathe, simply remind them that the doctor ordered the bath. This may help shift the blame away from you and hopefully make bath time less challenging.

Help Your Loved One Feel Safe

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia often struggle with depth perception. This can make stepping into a bathtub or standing under a shower head especially frightening. A few simple adjustments that you can make to help your loved one feel safe include using a shower seat and bathmat, as well as a hand-held shower head. Reducing the volume of the water may also help your loved one feel less anxious as the noise may be overwhelming.

Make Sure the Environment is Comfortable

There are numerous reasons why your loved one may be hesitant to bathe, which might include being uncomfortable. Is the bathroom or the water being used too chilly? Perhaps your loved one is cold after finishing their shower and bath. To increase comfort, try warming the bathroom up before getting started and having multiple towels on hand that you can wrap your loved one in when they are finished.

Offer a Positive Incentive

Is there an activity that your loved one really enjoys – spending time in the garden, going to their favorite restaurant for lunch, or listening to the radio? Tie finishing their bath to the activity they love. “Let’s finish your bath so we can pick some flowers,” or “What do you want for lunch? Let’s get ready – then we can go to the restaurant!”

Dressing and Grooming Tips for Alzheimer and Dementia Caregivers

Difficulties with dressing and grooming are not uncommon for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. For instance, your loved one may be unable to remember the purpose or use of common items like a hairbrush or a toothbrush. The Alzheimer’s Association offers some practical tips that can make dressing and grooming less stressful:


A dresser or closet overflowing with clothes may be overwhelming for your loved one – causing them to feel anxious. By limiting the amount of clothes that are available to choose from, you can make getting dressed a little easier for your loved one. Make sure that the clothing available is comfortable and seasonally appropriate – rotating pieces as necessary. Finally, consider presenting two outfits and allowing your loved one to select their favorite.

Be Organized

Once an outfit has been chosen, place it on your loved one’s bed in the order that it should be put on. Instead of handing them a top and directing them to put it on, use step-by-step directions. “Put your head through the large hole,” or “Put your arm through here.” Tops that button in front may be easier than pullovers, and pants that have an elastic waistband may be more comfortable than trousers with zippers or buttons.

Role Play

As your loved one’s disease progresses, they may forget how to use everyday items like a comb or a toothbrush. In addition to establishing a consistent routine, there are a few other strategies you can use to help your loved one maintain their independence. If necessary, switch to tools that are safer and easier to hold. Swap a regular razor for an electric one or a brush to one with an easy-grip handle. To reduce confusion, consider getting ready alongside your loved one. Modeling for them how to accomplish the task (shaving, brushing teeth, etc.), can help prevent frustration and provide an opportunity for you to bond.

Additional Lifestyle Resources

For additional lifestyle tips and resources, visit The Bristal’s blog.


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