ARTICLES / General / Bathing
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By Gwendolyn deGeest, RN,BSN,MA
Firstly, we need to gather all of our
supplies and draw the water. Then we must undress, and
for Peter, that means taking off his clothes in front of
another person. All of us strongly dislike feeling a
chill. Persons with dementia especially do not do well
with being cold.
The next step is to actually get into
the water, which can be very frightening for persons
with dementia. Their perception may be that they are
drowning. And when the bathing is done, we must get out
of the nice, warm water, towel dry, and then all of the
fuss of finding our clean clothes and putting them on.
Peter is down to the very basics. He
lives in the moment. Talking about his dog, Sparky makes
him happy. Reminiscing about the days of working in the
lumber camps makes Peter happy. Peter is not interested
in bathing. He doesn’t see any reason for taking a bath.
In fact, any discussion over three minutes is too long
to even discuss the bath. The caregiver needs to change
the subject and discuss what makes Peter happy.
Family caregivers have brought their
loved one to the nursing home, and trust that the
professional caregivers will provide care and
understanding. Professional caregivers trust that the
family will share information with them about their
loved one. And the person with dementia trusts that they
will receive care and understanding.
Gwendolyn deGeest, RN,BSN,MA, is
the author of “Bathing Sparky.” She has been working in
dementia care for over two decades and has witnessed the
joys and sorrows of families struggling to maintain a
quality of life for themselves and their loved ones.
Gwendolyn’s thesis, “The Relation Between the Perceived
Role of Family and the Behavior of the Person with
Dementia,” is published in the American Journal of
Alzheimer’s Disease, May/June, 2003. This work was
presented at The International Congress of Gerontology,
Vancouver, Canada. Gwendolyn resides in Vancouver, with
her family where she is a professor.