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Dementia Bathing: Is Towel Bathing the Answer?

Posted Apr 27 2010 12:00am

We all know about the struggles of bathing someone with dementia.  There is fear, discomfort, chilliness and of course, resistance.  So how can we make assisted bathing an easier experience?

Experts often say:  why do we have to bathe the old way?  Maybe adapting some easier methods will help. One of the best resources to learning about how to adapt bathing to persons with dementia is the CD/Video called  Bathing Without A Battle  by Ann Louise Barrick, Joanne Rader and Philip D. Sloane.  In one of their many research articles on the topic, these authors along with a number of others outlined some tips for giving a towel bath.  I will summarize their steps here:

  • Gather these items:  
    • bath blankets
    • large plastic bag with:  1 large towel, 1 reg bath towel, 2 or more washcloths
    • 2 or 3 qt pitcher of water at approximately 105 degrees with about 1 oz. of no rinse soap 
  • Let the person know what will occur, quiet the room and play soft music, wash your hands
  • Put a bath blanket under the person for warmth in the bed or on a chair
  • Pour soapy water into the plastic bag and soak the items
  • Wring out the excess water from the items
  • Using one area at a time on the person's body (least distressing first), place the large warm wet towel on the area and gently stroke each area.  Use washcloths for smaller areas and a separate washcloth (and gloves for you) for genital areas
  • No need to rinse or dry off is needed
  • You may opt to have the person dress later on and for now, place a warm bath blanket around them

Have you tried a method like this?  How has it worked for you?  Sometimes very logical and simple changes can make all the difference.

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