The Caring Corner - Blog

Alzheimer’s Care Tip #10: Never Force, Instead Reinforce

By Emma Dickison

Alzheimer's Advocate Jo Huey

This is part of an ongoing series of guest blogs written by Jo Huey, the Alzheimer’s Advocate®, founder of the Alzheimer’s Caregiver Institute.

In our last post, we talked about the Ninth Absolute of communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s: Never condescend, instead encourage/praise.

Today, we’ll explore the Tenth and final Absolute.

#10: Never force, instead reinforce.

No one likes to be told they’re doing something wrong. A better approach is to start by telling them what they’re doing well. Then, gently approach what they could be doing better.

One of the most common challenges for an Alzheimer’s caregiver is addressing a loved one’s obvious neglect of self-care.

Alzheimer's Dementia Care

This is often the first indicator to friends and family that something is wrong – when a loved one forgets to change their clothes or shower. Despite the best intentions, this observance is often met with defensiveness or withdrawal.

At this point, it’s common for family to turn to healthcare professionals for advice. Statements like, “My Mom has probably not had a real shower in months, but she insists she took a shower this morning,” are quite common. These statements are also followed with, “Why is the bath such a problem?”

My response is that I truly don’t see how ‘the bath’ cannot be a problem. Think about it from your loved one’s perspective. Would you feel comfortable letting a friend, family member or stranger watch and/or assist you with removing your clothes to take a shower/bath?

A much better approach is to provide everything your loved one will need to take a shower at the regular time.

Gather a change of clothes so they can get dressed in the bathroom when they’re finished. Run their bath water or get it the right temperature and ask them if it feels comfortable.

If your loved one is not physically capable of bathing/showering on his/her own, you may need to gently guide them through the process while explaining each step (e.g., foot bath, neck massage with warm towels, etc.).

With patience and understanding, what was once a struggle can become a completed task.

That concludes the 10 Absolutes of Alzheimer’s communication! I hope you found this tips helpful on your journey of care.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of H.H. Franchising Systems, Inc.


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