Advice For Caregiver on What to Do If One Refuses to Bathe
Build positive associations with bathing: Precede the bath with a pleasant activity (listening to a favorite radio program) and follow up with another one (a dish of ice cream).
Build pleasant associations with the bathroom, such as hanging favorite pictures there. Keep the door closed for privacy. Buy the person’s favorite brands or scents.
Stick to a consistent routine for bathing, which becomes soothing. When you find an approach that works, try to replicate it exactly the next time.
Keep the room and water warm. Feeling chilled may be what upsets the bather.
Use as little water as necessary in a bath; a few inches is fine. The tactile sensation of entering water can cause fear or confusion.
Cover the mirror if the person talks about other people watching.
Put water in the tub before the person enters the room; the loud pouring of water can cause distress and your loud voice over it can be interpreted as angry shouting.
Place a brightly colored, nonskid bath mat in the tub or shower to help the person judge depth; put a colored carpet on the floor outside the shower or bath, for focus.
Use distractions in the room to take the person’s mind off the washing: Play favorite music, install a lava lamp on a shelf opposite the tub or hang favorite pictures, keep up a conversation about a pleasant topic (antics of a dog or child, old family stories). Give the person a washcloth or wash mitt to occupy their hands.
Act as if you have all the time in the world.
Simplify the process so there are as few steps as possible.
Never force or intimidate (nudge the person into the shower, lift their foot into the tub, threaten “or else!”). You can set off a contest of wills or catastrophic panic.
Be respectful but matter-of-fact about cleaning genitalia.
Know when to quit trying to persuade. If you’re heading to a stand-off after five minutes of negotiations, drop the subject of bathing. Distract the person with another activity and then try again 15 or 20 minutes later. Make it sound like a fresh new idea.