Helping a person with dementia maintain their appearance provides a sense of self-esteem. However, as dementia progresses beyond the early stages, dementia patients may not remember how to dress and can become overwhelmed and frustrated with the choices. They may also forget simple personal hygiene activities, such as how to comb hair, clip fingernails or shave. Toileting may also become challenging in the middle and late stages of dementia. With some planning, patience and routine, the process can be easier for both you and your loved one.
Assisting Hands Dementia Education Program is designed to help families and caregivers better understand and meet the needs of those living with dementia. We’ve also posted several other guides:
This article is a guide to dressing, grooming and toileting.
Dressing and Grooming For The Day
Feeling comfortable and well groomed is important for everyone, but it’s particularly important for someone with dementia. When it comes to dressing for the day, it’s helpful to simplify the closet and only have clothes that are comfortable and in-season as choices. Here are some other ideas to keep in mind:
- Make sure clothes fit well. Remove any tags that scratch.
- Choose clothes that are easier to manage in the bathroom.
- Pick out two clothing options and let the person choose which option to wear.
- Give simple, step-by-step instructions.
- Make sure shoes fit properly and are secure.
For daily grooming, it’s important to make it an enjoyable time and tell a dementia patient how good they will look and feel. For women, you can assist with putting on make-up if this was a part of their typical routine. For men, you can help with shaving and use an electric razor for safety. It’s always a good idea to encourage a dementia patient to do as much as possible to maintain their independence. Here are some other ways to assist with the grooming routine:
- Help with hair combing by letting them comb the front and you comb the back.
- Give them a toothbrush with toothpaste and show them how to brush their teeth. Try an electric toothbrush at the lowest speed.
- Use children’s toothpaste and mouthwash, as they are both safe if swallowed.
- Clean their dentures.
The loss of bladder and bowel control is common for people in the middle and late stages of dementia. Accidents happen for a number of reasons – not being able to find the bathroom, not being able to get their pants off, the presence of a urinary tract infection, drinking caffeinated beverages and taking certain medications. Here are some suggestions to help with toileting:
- Keep the bathroom door open at all times as a reminder of where it’s located.
- Keep the bathroom door ajar slightly when in use. This enables you to offer assistance which still maintaining privacy.
- Keep the light on in the bathroom.
- Provide a reminder every two hours to use the bathroom.
- Watch for cues that they may need to use the bathroom, such as pacing or grabbing their clothes.
- Install a raised height toilet seat with grab bars.
- Hand them toilet paper with simple instructions. Consider using wipes as an alternative.
- Consider using pads in underwear or adult briefs in case of minor accidents. Many adult diaper products also have the look and feel of traditional underwear.
- Don’t be critical when accidents occur.
Toileting at night can offer a whole new set of challenges. During the nighttime, it can be a good idea to have a bedside commode for safety and ease of use. For men, a hand-held urinal near the bed is helpful. For bedtime incontinence, make sure to use a plastic mattress cover and incontinence undergarments designed for nighttime use. Finally, be sure to use one or more nightlights to light the way to the bathroom.
As a caregiver for someone with dementia, you may often feel like you have very little time to handle matters in your own life. It can be a full-time job that can make anyone feel tired and burned out. That’s where Assisting Hands can help. We specialize in Alzheimer’s and Dementia care and offer professional in-home personal care services to provide caregivers with a much-needed break. Call us at 301-363-2580 and let’s discuss how we can help.