Personal care is an intimate activity and most people will experience difficult feelings if they need help with this. Trying to force a person with dementia to accept personal care constitutes abuse. It is a fundamental human right to say ‘no’. However, neglecting someone’s personal care needs can also be abusive, as the person’s health may be put at risk. Therefore, it is essential to understand the person’s reason for refusing and to address this.
We may need to find an alternative way of providing the personal care the person needs, for example, offering a bath rather than a shower. It will be important to find out as much as possible about the person’s previous lifestyle and preferences concerning their hygiene. Perhaps the person always had a bath on Sunday mornings and had stand-up washes for the rest of the week. Then we need to adapt to this routine. Through finding out this background information, observing and listening to the person with dementia, we can gradually build up a picture of the personal care routines and preferences of each individual.
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