One of the most difficult aspects of caring for a senior loved one.
For caregivers and their aging family member, personal care time can be emotionally and physically exhausting. The physical act of providing care is strenuous in that it requires lifting and transferring. It can also be psychologically strenuous. Aging parents are generally embarrassed and sad that an adult child has to give them a bath or dress them, and children are heartbroken from having to do so.
If you are struggling to find a way to manage the personal care needs for a senior you love, we have some advice and tips to help.
1. Settle on a bathing schedule that truly meets their needs. While most of us like a daily shower before we head off to work, it might not be necessary for an older loved one with a fairly sedentary lifestyle. What they really need might be a daily sponge bath and a shower or full bath three times a week.
2. When it is time for bathing, try to create a peaceful environment. Music might help to calm your senior loved one. Set up an app like Pandora or iHeart Radio on your smart phone or tablet. Both will allow you to customize a station for bath time so it plays waterfall sounds, birds or classical music. Whatever music your family member enjoys might help to distract and soothe them.
3. To help minimize embarrassment, keep the conversation natural and relaxed. Talk about plans for the day or what you saw on the morning show. Maintaining a casual atmosphere can help to redirect their attention away from the embarrassment and sadness they may be feeling at their circumstances.
4. Remember to allow your loved one to maintain as much of their self-care as is safely possible. It might take them longer, but it is an important part of maintaining independence. An easy-to-handle haircut and a more simplified grooming process might make things more manageable for them. For men, switching to an electric razor might make shaving easier to do on their own.
5. Don’t overlook safety issues in the bathroom. Make sure there are no throw rugs that could create a fall risk, that grab bars are safely installed, and that you check the water temperature before your loved one gets into the tub or shower. You should also avoid adding bubbles or slippery oils to bath water. They can create a fall risk or make it harder for you to hold on to your loved one while helping them out of the tub or shower. For more safety tips read Tips to Help Prevent Falls Among The Elderly.
6. Have their towel and clothing ready to put on immediately when they come out of the tub or shower. That will help protect their modesty and prevent them from becoming cold.
8. Prepare their bath water before bringing them into the bathroom to help minimize agitation. Seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease are often afraid of the water and especially of the sound of running water.
9. Don’t overlook dental care. It is one area that seniors are often able to maintain longer with minimal support. Routine dental care including regular visits to the dentist is important for oral health and has even been linked to heart disease prevention.
Finally, remember not to be too hard on yourself or your loved one. This is a difficult situation for both of you. Try to keep a positive attitude, to be patient and to maintain your sense of humor. It will likely help your senior loved one do the same.