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Bathing Sparky

By Gwendolyn deGeest, RN,BSN,MA

(Page 4 of 4)  

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.

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