Personal Care Tips

Your loved one is refusing to shower and bathe. They went from being clean to soiled and disheveled.

I see this all the time and hear family members complain. Unfortunately, many individuals with Dementia just do not understand they are dirty. This makes it difficult for the loved one because people with dementia still need to have their dignity and privacy respected. The most important thing to remember is not to insult or degrade them.

First and foremost we need to find out why are they refusing to shower or bathe? Do they understand what you are asking of them? I have a loved one that had a husband who did not allow water to be wasted. She went back in time and was afraid to waste water.

There is always a reason in the individuals world.


Here are a few possibilities and suggestions:

  1. Did they forget how? Think about when you take a shower or bath. There is a lot we do that takes no thought because we do it every day;
    - Get a towel, get a washcloth
    - Start the bath/shower (is it the right temperature)
    - Do we have soap, shampoo, conditioner?
    - Safely get in.
    - Apply soap, apply shampoo etc. (I think you get the picture.)
    Now imagine being confused and loss of memory.

  2. How about modern technology as an issue? Can they figure out how to turn the faucet or shower on.


Getting dressed can be a challenge.

  1. Buttons, Zippers tying shoes can all become difficult. This is when elastic is your best friend. Pulling up is easier than buttoning and zippering. It will allow your loved one to have dignity and independence.

  2. Allow him/her to become part of the decision making process. Place clothing within reach. If it does not match that’s ok as long as they are not leaving the home. I have a patient who loved to match her clothing. She wants her buttons lined up perfectly. This is important to her so it should be important to you. Her daughter gets frustrated and vents it in front of my patient. Don’t do this! If you are frustrated getting dressed will become a chore and your loved one may no longer want to participate in the process.


Oral Care, Nail Care & Hair Grooming

  1. Oral care is important not only for the dignity of the person but just as important is health. Many people do not realize how our mouths affects our digestive and cardiac systems. If your loved one is able to participate in their oral care start by handing them the toothbrush and toothpaste and see what they can still do. If they do not understand help! Put the paste on the brush, have the cup filled with water. If they have dentures make certain they are clean before you have them put them into their mouth. Something worth mentioning is making sure your loved one has seen a dentist.

  2. Nail care  is important to prevent scratching themselves and others. Diabetics should go to the foot doctor to prevent sores and monitor infections. Ladies who have always had manicures and pedicures should be encouraged to continue this ritual.

  3. Hair grooming. Most long term facilities have hair salons because our aging populations love to have their hair washed, bruised, cut, colored etc. This is true for your loved one as well. Remember dignity and respect are a very important part of our daily lives and this holds true to your loved one as well.


Personal care is very important to your loved one. Make this a priority whenever possible.