If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, he might need help taking care of himself every day, including assistance with eating, bathing, shaving, and using the toilet.
It’s best to encourage him to handle these things on his own for as long as he 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 her privacy. Close doors and blinds. Cover her with a towel or bathrobe.
- Encourage her to take on as much of her own care as possible. This will give her a sense of independence and accomplishment.
- Keep her abilities in mind. Give her enough time to complete each task -- for example, brushing her hair or teeth.
- Encourage and support her. For example, say, "You did a nice job getting dressed today."
- Tell her what you’re doing before you do it -- "I'm going to wash your hair now."
- If she can dress herself, lay out her clothes in the order she should put them on. It’s best to give her 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 her to feed herself if she’s 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 her, give her a bowl and spoon. You can also try plate guards or silverware with handles.
- Don't force her to eat. If she’s not interested in food, try to find out why. Treat her 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 she does need a regular one.
- Always check the temperature of the water in the bath or shower.
- If you give her a bath in the tub, consider using a bath chair with handrails. Also, place rubber mats in the tub so she doesn’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 she can’t move herself, you might need special equipment. Ask your doctor for advice on how to safely bathe her.
Hair Care and Shaving
- You can try to wash your loved one's hair in the sink, which might help if he prefers baths to showers. You can also try using a dry shampoo.
- A visit to the salon or barbershop might be fun if he's able to take the trip there with you.
- Use an electric razor for shaving to lower the risk of cuts, especially if he's taking blood-thinning medicines.
- Brush her teeth daily. If she wears dentures, clean them every day. Make sure the dentures fit properly, and check gums for sores or red areas.
- If she won’t open her mouth, brush just the outsides of her teeth. Ask your dentist for advice on how to give good dental care.
- If she brushes her own teeth, you can help by putting the toothpaste on the brush.
Using the Toilet
- Install safety features that make it easier for her to go, such as grab bars and raised toilet seats.
- A bedside commode or urinal might help if she has 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.