Medical Condition: Dementia Care Tips (Part 1)

Providing personal care to a loved one can be difficult and dementia poses its own challenges. Most parents have little or no problem cleaning up children who have toileting or personal hygiene accidents. Personal care is taken in a practical manner. How difficult this becomes when the person you are caring for is an adult. You enter an emotional minefield. There are your own as well as the feelings of the person whom you are caring for.

Early Stage Dementia-

In the early stages of dementia, most people need minimum assistance as they still retain their abilities for personal care. You may notice that the person starts to:

  • Wear the same dirty clothes day after day.
  • Forget to brush their teeth.
  • Stop shaving or using make-up.
  • Avoid or forget to take bath regularly.
  • Does not bother to change the bed sheets.
  • Neglects to put the garbage out or do the washing up.

There are various reasons for this, including forgetfulness, insecure feelings while getting in and out of the bath, unable to remember which tap produces hot or cold water, lacking motivation or feeling depressed.

What helps?                                          

Encourage the person to follow a daily routine and accept the help of others. One can help the person by putting aids such as grab bars, raised toilet seats and labeling the taps and other gadgets they use. All of this needs to be introduced while respecting the person’s dignity and privacy.

Absorb the person and try to find out their likes and dislikes, their difficulties, rituals, habits, routines, and wishes for the future. What are their favorite perfume and lotions? ; Do they use talcum powder after a bath? ; Do they have joint-pain? ; Pay attention to these kinds of details.

Following their personal care and other everyday routines will not only provide comfort but help avoid difficulties at a later stage. It will be too late to obtain essential information from them as dementia progresses. Everyone is different so learn as much as you can about the type of dementia and how it may affect the person. Encourage the person to help oneself until their abilities safely allow them to do so. They may forget to take bath but may be able to do so independently once you help to get them started by preparing the bathroom or help them into the bath and the withdraw.

Respect their privacy and dignity by keeping them covered with a dressing gown until the last minute and hand over this when they are ready to get out of the bath. Establishing a routine of keeping dirty clothes separate from clean ones may help the person continue dressing independently for a longer time.

Middle Stage Dementia-

There is an increasing loss of physical and mental abilities as the person moves into the middle stage of dementia. This may include:

  • Feelings of frustration due to loss of abilities.
  • Forgetting how to use personal care items, such as a toothbrush or a hairbrush.
  • Having perceptual problems such as- thinking the water deep and they might drown in it or that a dark-colored bathmat is a hole where they may fall.
  • Feeling embarrassed and humiliated if incontinence occurs.
  • Unaware of your presence or your help.
  • Not knowing how to take bath, test the water temperature or the need to undress before taking bath.

What helps?

Much of the information you have gathered in the early stages will be very useful now as the help required increases.  Follow up the established routines and habits. Prepare everything in the bathroom such as water temperature, room temperature, towels, and bathrobes etc. Playing soft music might create a calming effect. It may become dangerous to leave the person alone. It is better to keep away any toxic materials in the bathroom or toilet such as cleaning substances, shampoos or medications to a safe place. The person may not be able to understand the labels and try to drink it when others are not around to monitor them.

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