If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, they might need help taking care of themselves every day, including assistance with eating, bathing, shaving, and using the toilet.
It’s best to encourage them to handle these things on their own for as long as they can. But when you need to step in, there are ways to make it easier for both of you.
- Set up a daily routine and stick to it. For example, brush your loved one's teeth after meals. Or always have baths in the mornings or evenings. Choose the most relaxed times of the day for these tasks.
- Respect their privacy. Close doors and blinds. Cover them with a towel or bathrobe.
- Encourage them to take on as much of their own care as possible. This will give them a sense of independence and accomplishment.
- Keep their abilities in mind. Give them enough time to complete each task -- for example, brushing their hair or teeth.
- Encourage and support them. For example, say, "You did a nice job getting dressed today."
- Tell them what you’re doing before you do it -- "I'm going to wash your hair now."
- If they can dress themselves, lay out their clothes in the order they should put them on. It’s best to give them clothing that’s easy to put on, with few buttons.
Healthy eating is very important for people with Alzheimer’s, but it can get harder as their symptoms get worse. Here are some ways to make sure your loved one gets a nutritious diet and plenty of fluids, like water or juice.
- Encourage them to feed themselves if they're able. Serve finger foods that are easier to handle and eat, like chicken nuggets, orange slices, or steamed broccoli.
- If eating with a plate and fork gets too hard for them, give them a bowl and spoon. You can also try plate guards or silverware with handles.
- Don't force them to eat. If they're not interested in food, try to find out why. Treat them like an adult, not a child.
Your loved one might not need a complete bath every day. A sponge bath may be enough. But you can follow these tips when they do need a regular one.
- Always check the temperature of the water in the bath or shower.
- If you give them a bath in the tub, consider using a bath chair with handrails. Also, place rubber mats in the tub so they don’t slip.
- Keep the bathroom warm and well-lit.
- Remove or secure throw rugs to prevent falls.
- If your loved one is too heavy for you to move easily, or if they can’t movethemselves, you might need special equipment. Ask your doctor for advice on how to safely bathe them.
Hair Care and Shaving
- You can try to wash your loved one's hair in the sink, which might help if they prefer baths to showers. You can also try using a dry shampoo.
- A visit to the salon or barbershop might be fun if they are able to take the trip there with you.
- Use an electric razor for shaving to lower the risk of cuts, especially if they are taking blood-thinning medicines.
- Brush their teeth daily. If they wear dentures, clean them every day. Make sure the dentures fit properly, and check gums for sores or red areas.
- If they won’t open their mouth, brush just the outsides of their teeth. Ask your dentist for advice on how to give good dental care.
- If they brush their own teeth, you can help by putting the toothpaste on the brush.
Using the Toilet
- Install safety features that make it easier for them to go, such as grab bars and raised toilet seats.
- A bedside commode or urinal might help if they have trouble getting to the bathroom, especially at night.
- Schedule routine bathroom visits to avoid accidents.
- Tell the doctor if your loved one loses bowel or bladder control. Medication might help for these problems.