Alzheimer Granny Takes a Shower II


Frena Gray-Davidson continues  to share how Alzheimer Granny takes a shower:

1. Cut down the number of showers per week. This reduces the occasions for upset and is more in keeping with the skin requirements of elders, many of whom already have fragile dry skin that lotion doesn't really restore, though it helps. About 3 showers a week are often sufficient.

2. Many people, even with dementia, can adequately wash their necessary parts with wash-cloths and advisory supervision. Giving a cue one at a time works well. As in:

"Here, Mom, here's a clean warm wash-cloth. Why don't you wipe between your legs. Now, give your behind a good wash. Here, use this clean wash-cloth for under your arms," and so on.

That may look tedious, but it only takes wash-cloths, clean warm water and you to talk the person through the task.

Now if this person really has a BIG hygiene problem, and I think you know what I mean, then a half shower is a great solution. Because, although no one likes to talk about it, the main question: is does this person smell of urine or feces?

Note: Be sure to have vinyl or latex gloves (for you), a big garbage bag and a big laundry bag, baby wipes, clean undies (and think about Depend style undies: lots of types and choices these days and really easy to use and dispose of).

A lot of hygiene stuff is much easier if you have all the equipment you need. And be sure to make jokes. We always do. Like, "Whoa, Dad, let's call in the HazMat team!" Laughter overcomes lots of embarrassment.

When it does come to showers, always think hand-held shower. You can easily get one added to your normal shower.

3. Alzheimer Granny began to love her shower once Marian used a hand-held shower and a comfortable shower chair. Marian tested the water gently until Alzheimer Granny liked the feel of it on her hand.

"That's good," said Alzheimer Granny and Marian began using the hand-held shower, starting from the feet and working upwards. Once Marian got used to letting Alzheimer Granny know exactly what she was doing and would do, everything went much better.

As in:

"Okay Mom, now I'm going to start at your feet. There now, does that feel good? I bet it does. I know you love nice warm water -- but not too hot, huh, Mom?"

Blah blah blah -- gentle on-going talk of this kind often really reassures the person you're working with. Once the shower is done, wrap your person up in a nice soft towel and get them to dry as much of themselves as possible. People get really comfortable with this and they feel in charge. Which soothes them more.

Note: If you can't or won't do this, for whatever perfectly good reasons, hire someone to come in and do the showers. You'll be surprised at how comfortable most people are with professional caregivers. That's because there's no history, no struggle, no embarrassment.

Usually, also, professional caregivers know not to hurry people. The phrase "More Haste, less speed" was invented for people with dementia. So, Marian has learned to slow down, relax and take her time with Alzheimer Granny -- because she's found out it's quicker that way. It's also much kinder.

Try it.

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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