How to get them to take a shower?

By Jim Dodd

With respect to your question on showering. One of the most pressing problems that we run into in taking care of the elderly is showering. Many elderly patients have some degree of dementia that causes many care problems including getting them to eat properly, take their medications, and showering is right up there as well. Some of the fears that get in the way of a patient wanting to shower are fear of falling, fear of being exposed, fear of being cold during the process, and just not remembering that they have not taken a shower for a few days. Another problem in dementia is stubbornness and the loss of reasoning ability.

An approach that has worked in the past is to associate the shower to some event such as a doctors appointment, visit to church or a visit from church members, a shopping trip, or a visit from a neighbor. Sometimes our caregivers take their patients on errands just for that purpose. They tell them that they know that they want to look pretty and smell pretty for the event. If they have the money, we sometimes take them out to get their hair done once a week. For many of them, it is a social event and fun. We then give them the shower that same morning.

We steer away from telling them that they stink, berate them, belittle them, or tell them that they have to shower because it sets up immediate resistance and this resistance is then automatically associated with showering. We try to make it a fun thing to look forward to and it works with some and not with others. It's always an ongoing issue in most households we service.