Caring for your loved one with dementia can become more and more difficult as the disease progresses. For some caregivers, the big difficulty may come when your loved one is having personal hygiene challenges. For example, your loved one may wear the same clothes over and over, even if they’re dirty. They may forget or refuse to take baths. They may not brush their teeth or comb their hair.
“Poor hygiene and grooming can be embarrassing for you and your loved one, but more importantly, it can pose serious health issues,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “Not bathing, for example, can lead to odors as well as skin issues that can cause infections. Not brushing teeth leads to poor mouth health, which can lead to abscesses, cavities and other issues that lead to more serious health problems, especially with your loved one’s weakened immune system.”
As with most things related to dementia, says Andrea, the challenge is balancing your loved one’s needs with the changing reality of the situation. “Instead of focusing on everything that should be done, focus instead on what must be done. Is it necessary for your loved one to bathe each day as long as they’re practicing good hygiene overall? Or is having a routine comforting to your loved one? You’ll have to work with your knowledge of your loved one and figure out what is the best option for you both.”
Because of the way dementia affects the brain, someone with the disease can become confused about simple, everyday things that seem like second nature to us. Showering may become terrifying. Mirrors can cause agitation and anxiety. This can be due to a loss of recognition, loss of depth perception and being overwhelmed with tasks.
“Understanding why your loved one is acting the way he is will help you better overcome challenges and find a solution that keeps everyone safe, clean and healthy,” says Andrea. “Your patience, understanding and positive attitude will be the biggest tool to help you successfully navigate your loved one’s discomfort.”
While many of us enjoy being fresh and clean, bath time can be a terrifying experience to someone with dementia. It’s cold and slippery, with hard floors and sharp edges. Mirrors can be disorienting, and water falling from the showerhead may appear as broken glass raining down upon them. They may feel anxious about a lack of privacy or are afraid of falling.
Dressing poses a lot of challenges for individuals with dementia. Dirty, familiar clothes may be more comforting and comfortable than a freshly laundered set. They can be overwhelmed by choices, and choose inappropriate clothing (for example, wearing sweaters and long pants during the heat of summer). They may become fixated on one set of clothing and become anxious if it needs to be washed.
Brushing one’s teeth, clipping nails, shaving and maintaining a hair style can be a challenge for a loved one who can’t remember the steps, is overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” needed to complete the task or simply can’t do it the way they used to. When we look good, we usually feel better, so remember that being “put together” is still very important for your loved one.
Sometimes, even though you’re doing everything right, you may come to an impasse with your loved one with dementia. If that’s the case, here are some tips for helping reduce the anxiety and getting you both on the same page.
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Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.
Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.
At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.
For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.