Alzheimer Granny Takes a Shower I


Ever since Alzheimer Granny developed dementia, it's been very hard for anyone to get her into the shower. Either she plain refuses or she gets resistant and upset.

"What is it, Mom?" Marian asked one time, but Alzheimer Granny just stared back at her daughter, fearful and agitated.

She shook her head and Marian had no idea if that was just one more refusal or if Alzheimer Granny was basically saying, "Gosh darn it, beats me, honey."

If I had to pick one answer, I'd go with "Gosh darn it." No one knows for sure why people with dementia resist the shower so much, but they do and we can make useful guesses and some workable plans to keep things clean.

Meanwhile, here's something to think about it. I've long observed that it seems to be the water itself that upsets the person. Having seen how sensitive people with dementia are to outer stimulus, like the wind on their faces or drops of rain, I thought that maybe it was this same sensitivity at work. Maybe also it's that, when you have dementia and you're standing in the shower, perhaps you have actually forgotten that water is likely to tumble down on you from above when someone turns the faucet.

Those are logical possibilities, right? Then I was chatting with a friend from San Diego who's involved with human biology research and we were talking about the shower issue.

"You know," I said, "In spite of all the other logical guesses we can make, I can't help thinking that it's something about the beating of the water on the head that actually upsets people. That just seems to be what I'm seeing."

That's when he told me that recent research has shown that the actual rhythm of typical shower water disrupts normal brain wave function within and seems to directly bring about the agitation we see. It's the actual brain wave rhythm that's disrupted. The mis-firings that follow are what create the outward signs of agitation.

So, those are the possibilities. Meanwhile, without knowing the actual answer, there's a lot you can do that works.

Check back tomorrow to learn about those possibilities.

Frena Gray-Davidson is an Alzheimer's caregiver, support group facilitator and author of five books on caregiving including her latest, "Alzheimer's 911: Hope, Help and Healing for Caregivers", available from Frena presents direct care staff training in dementia behaviors and educates family caregivers at seminars and conferences nationally and internationally. You can find her website at and you can email her with your caregiving issues or have an-line dementia consultation through her website. She has a newspaper column titled The Caregiver Coach dealing with hands-on care matters involving seniors and old age issues. To get a free monthly online newsletter for caregivers, email her at

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