Bathing & Personal Care

Many adults are embarrassed to have others assist them with personal grooming activities such as undressing or bathing. As a caregiver you can take steps to make the experience more comfortable for you both.


b1.png 1: Monitor Grooming Needs

  • Brush the person’s teeth or clean dentures daily. Your dentist can help you with denture care.
  • A complete bath may not be necessary every day. A sponge bath is an alternative.
  • Check that fingernails and toenails are trimmed and cleaned.
  • Remember, you may need to change your standards to fit the persons abilities.

b2.png 2: Set a Routine

  • Schedule grooming activities for the same time and place each day. For example, help the person brush his or her teeth after meals or bathe each day before dressing.

b3.png 3: Respect the Person

  • Close doors and curtains and pull down blinds for privacy.
  • If the person seems embarrassed while bathing, wrap a towel around his or her shoulders.
  • Consider the person’s past grooming habits. For example, a woman who used to wear makeup can still wear lipstick.
  • Tell the person what you are doing. For example, “I’m going to brush your hair now.”

b4.png 4: Make Grooming Safe

  • Try rubber mats to help reduce slipping in the bath. Make sure there are no puddles of water on the floor.
  • Always check the temperature of the bath or shower water.
  • Try handrails or a bath chair.
  • Keep medicines off of bathroom counters and out-of-reach.
  • Make sure that the person who dresses him or herself is dressed appropriately for the weather and activity.
  • If the person wanders, choose brightly colored clothes that are easily seen.

b5.png 5: Offer Support

  • Praise the person and offer compliments when he or she is clean or dressed.
  • Give encouragement as the person completes each step. Try
  • “You did that very well” or “You did a good job brushing your hair. It looks lovely.”
  • Offer the person a reward, such as a favorite food or activity, when he or she successfully completes a task.

b6.png 6: Be Flexible

  • Choose shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
  • Try washing hair in the sink or having it done by a hairdresser or barber.
  • Give the person a bath if a shower is upsetting or consider using a hand held shower.
  • Buy two of the same outfits if the person likes to wear the same thing every day.
  • Choose clothing that fastens in the back for someone who repeatedly takes off his or her clothes.
  • Try brushing only the outside of the teeth if the person refuses to open his or her mouth.

b7.png 7: Allow the Person to Help with Tasks

  • Allow the person to do as much as they are able. For example, a person who can’t style his or her hair may be able to use a brush.
  • Give the person enough time to complete the task without feeling rushed.

b8.png 8: Make the Person Feel Comfortable

  • Choose the most relaxed time of day for bathing and grooming.
  • Make sure the bathing area is warm and well-lit

b9.png 9: Prepare in Advance

  • Have the bath water ready or the toothpaste on the toothbrush.
  • Lay out the washcloth, towel and clean clothes for a bath.
  • Stack clothes in the order that they are to be put on.

b10.png 10: Simplify Activities

  • Gently talk the person through each step of an activity.
  • For example, give the person one article of clothing at a time when he or she is dressing.
  • Offer one of two choices, such as blue or grey socks.
  • Eliminate accessories that can be put on wrong, such as belts or scarves.
  • Keep visible only those clothes that the person will be wearing.
  • Have the person’s hair cut in a short, attractive style that needs minimal care.


Adapted from Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) Educational Materials with permission.