One hot topic that pops up all the time on caregiver forums has to do with bathing and changing clothes. It’s one of those things that, no matter what, will become an issue for every person with dementia. They will get to the point where they don’t bathe and will not change clothes. They may change into pajamas at night but even so, they will put on the same daytime clothes day after day.
You may think that’s horrible and wonder how they could stand to do that. The truth is, they forget how to bathe and, if their closet is full of clothes, they can’t make a choice regarding what to wear. It is easier to stay in the same clothes.
So, you might think that someone needs to help them if they don’t know how to do it. That brings in another can of worms! The person doesn’t know that they are having a problem and if you try to call attention to it, you experience a “catastrophic response” (tantrum) caused by not understanding/remembering what they have to do to accomplish a bath and changing clothes.
I struggled with those tantrums for a couple months but after reading The 36 Hour Day and reading suggestions on the forums, bath time has become fairly easy. That’s not to say there won’t be an issue here and there but for the most part, every Thursday we accomplish washing her hair and the bath.
It’s interesting that some folks on the forums are quite upset if bathing doesn’t happen on a daily basis. Others think every other day is a must and some, like me, settle for once a week. I know this all depends on the person because each person can become “ripe” at different rates. At 94, Mom does not sweat and, in fact, is usually bundled up even in the summer. She is not yet incontinent but we use Depends because her habits are not what they used to be and they help also. So, at this point, once a week is good.
Then there is the question of changing clothes. Like the bathing, we’ve gotten into a routine. Every day I change the Depends for her and put lotion and fresh socks on her feet. That goes like clockwork now and she never balks at it. Even though she has fresh Depends and socks, Mom would wear the same clothes every day if I let her. That’s where my decision point comes in. I won’t let her wear the same clothes all week between baths but how often? I’ve tossed it around in my mind quite often.As I asked myself the question again this morning, I finally settled on an answer. For now, unless she spills something, we’ll stick with changing to clean clothes twice a week and again if there is a special occasion. In her current condition, I think it works fine and she seems content.