Personal care in dementia

The advice on this page is for people who are living with or caring for someone with dementia.

In the early stages of dementia, people are still able to care for themselves in the same way they always have.

As dementia progresses, your loved one may need help with their personal care. Some people might become anxious about personal care tasks like showering or bathing.

For example, they may:

  • be scared of falling when they’re getting out of the bath
  • become disorientated in the shower
  • not want to be left alone
  • resist washing because they find the lack of privacy undignified or embarrassing
  • have problems with co-ordination which can make tasks like getting dressed difficult

How to help someone with their personal care in dementia

To maintain someone’s dignity, it’s important to recognise that helping someone with their personal care needs to be approached sensitively.

Washing and helping someone go to the toilet are usually private tasks so accepting help can be difficult.

Try these tips to help someone with their personal care:

  • ask the person how they’d like to be helped
  • reassure the person that you’ll not let them get hurt
  • use a bath seat or handheld shower
  • use shampoo, shower gel or soap the person prefers
  • be prepared to stay with the person if they don’t want you to leave them alone

Find out more information on personal care from Alzheimer Scotland

Incontinence in dementia

As a person’s dementia progresses it’s common to experience incontinence. This can be due to:

People with dementia may also forget to go to the toilet or forget where the toilet is. Sometimes they can lose the ability to tell when they need the toilet too.

How to help someone with incontinence in dementia

Incontinence can be difficult to deal with and can be very upsetting for the person you care for. But, it’s important to be understanding and remember that it’s not their fault.

To make going to the toilet easier, you could:

  • put a sign on the toilet door, like a photo of the toilet
  • keep the toilet door open and make sure that the person you care for can access it easily
  • make sure that they can remove their clothes – some people with dementia struggle with buttons and zips
  • look out for signs that they may need to go to the toilet, like fidgeting and standing up and down
  • get adaptations to the toilet if necessary – you may be able to get these through a care and support needs assessment

Having a different colour toilet seat helps make the toilet obvious.

Having toilet paper within easy reach of the toilet can make going to the toilet easier.

Maintaining consistency, like using the same colour of towels, can assist with recognition.

Further help and advice

You can also ask your GP to refer you to a continence advisor. They can discuss things like waterproof bedding or incontinence pads and other products.

Last updated:
27 May 2024