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Personal Care for a Loved One With Alzheimer’s Disease

People with Alzheimer's disease have special needs and require special help, which can pose unique challenges for their caregivers. Depending on his or her level of independence, your loved one with Alzheimer's disease may need help with personal care activities, including eating, bathing, shaving, and using the toilet. To assist with these activities, caregivers need knowledge, skill, and patience.

General Tips for Alzheimer's Disease Caregiving

  • Establish a routine for your loved one with Alzheimer's disease. Schedule grooming activities for the same time and same place each day; for example, brush his or her teeth after meals, or schedule baths for the mornings or evenings. Choose the most relaxed time of the day for bathing and grooming.
  • Respect your loved one's privacy. Close doors and blinds. Cover him or her with a towel or bathrobe.
  • Encourage your loved one to do as much as possible. This will help to promote a sense of independence and accomplishment.
  • Keep in mind your loved one's abilities. Give him or her enough time to complete each task; for example, brushing his or her hair or teeth.
  • Give your loved one encouragement and support as he or she completes tasks. Acknowledge his or her efforts when completed. For example, say, "You did a nice job brushing your hair today."
  • Tell your loved one what you are doing before doing it. For example, "I'm going to wash your hair now."
  • If your loved one can dress himself or herself, lay out the clothes in the order they are to be put on. Clothing that is easy to put on, with few buttons, is best.

Eating With Alzheimer's Disease

  • Some symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, including confusion and lack of energy, can be worsened by poor nutrition. Be sure to provide your loved one with a nutritious diet and plenty of healthy fluids, such as water or juice.
  • Encourage independent eating if your loved one is able. Consider serving finger foods that are easier for the person to handle and eat.
  • Adaptive equipment such as plate guards or silverware with specially designed handles is available for individuals who have difficulty holding or using utensils.
  • Don't force feed. Try to encourage your loved one to eat, and try to find out why they don't want to eat. Always remember to treat your loved one as an adult, not a child.

Bathing and Alzheimer's Disease

For someone with Alzheimer's disease, a complete bath may not be needed every day. A sponge bath may be enough.

  • Always check the temperature of the water in the bath or shower.
  • If giving a bath in the tub, try using a bath chair with handrails. Also, place rubber mats in the tub to prevent slipping.
  • Make sure the bathroom is warm and well-lit.
  • Remove or secure throw rugs to prevent falls in the bathroom.
  • If your loved one is heavy or can offer little help, special equipment may be needed. Your doctor can give you advice on how to safely bathe your loved one.

WebMD Medical Reference

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