Shower Solutions for Someone Living with Dementia

Vicky Pitner   -  

When caring for a loved one with memory loss, many tasks may become increasingly difficult. Because of the changes in the brain, the person may have difficulty understanding the task at hand. Because of the person’s confusion, tasks that have been easily accomplished for years can be perceived as fearful. Showering or bathing may bring resistance, but when you view this hesitation as an unmet need, rather than “uncooperative behavior,” solutions can be found. Ensuring the person feels safe, understood, and respected, personal hygiene routines may become easier. Below are some strategies to make showering/bathing more pleasant for your loved one.

  • Cold temperatures can be a major cause for someone not wanting to disrobe for showers. It can be helpful to turn on the shower ahead of time with the bathroom door closed in order to create a warmer and more comfortable environment. Warm up towels in the drier for before and after bathing.
  • As the day goes on, many people with dementia may experience increased confusion and sometimes agitation. If this is the case, taking showers earlier in the day and things should go more smoothly. Be mindful to respect the person’s routine. If a man has always shaved before his shower, adhere to that or is will be confusing.
  • It is always important to keep one’s integrity and modesty in mind when helping with showers. Use draping materials such as towels or washcloths, to help maintain as much privacy as possible while assisting with a shower. This will help the individual feel more comfortable and thus, improve cooperation.
  • Some individuals will be more agreeable to a doctor’s request for scheduled showers, versus a family member. Older adults are more receptive to what the doctor orders.
  • Engaging in an activity such as walking or gardening prior to taking a bath or shower provides a great rationale for caregivers. Using a phrase like, “Wow, that was a lot of work. A shower would feel good before we have lunch.” be a non-threatening way of making the transition.
  • Consider mixing up the language and swap the word “shower” with the word “spa.” This word may sound more pleasing, especially to a female.
  • Check the pressure of the showerhead. If it is too powerful, it can actually be painful for someone with dementia. Change to a more gentle pressure setting or replace with a new one if necessary.
  • As with any task, allow your loved one to be as independent as possible with their self-care. When an individual feels engaged and useful, self-esteem and feelings of success are able to emerge.
  • “If you don’t insist, they don’t resist” is a good thought to keep in mind. Perhaps try again later, if the person is showing signs of distress.

If you, a friend or family member is living with memory loss and are interested in learning more about our Memory Ministry, Memory Cafe, or trainings, please contact Vicky Pitner at