Find the key products to help you create a safe and comfortable environment for washing

Bathing and grooming is a part of everyday life, and something most people do without thinking too deeply. But for someone with dementia, it can make the difference between feeling happy, comfortable and dignified, and not.
The bathroom can sometimes be an area which proves difficult as dementia progresses, especially if the person you’re caring for has mobility problems or serious memory issues. Luckily, there are plenty of products to ensure the bathing and grooming experience is comfortable and straightforward for both the person with dementia and their carer. Click on the links below to find out which products can help.

Safety

Your dilemma
A simple process such as taking a bath suddenly seems to be full of dangers. The bathroom has the potential to cause numerous hazards, including flooding, slips, scalds and falls, and you’re worried about the person you’re caring for.
Products to help
- Anti-flood plugs

Someone with dementia may forget that they’ve set their bath running, or have difficulty turning off sink taps or showers which could cause flooding. Anti-flood plugs allow a certain amount of water to accumulate before the pressure forces the plug to open and drain the water away.
- Flood sensors
Flood alarms can be linked up to telecare systems which will alert a family member or carer that water has started to gather in a room (the kitchen for example). Some can also be combined with a valve control unit which will shut off the water.
- Water temperature sensors
If you’re running a bath, you can check that the water temperature isn’t too hot with a thermometer. You can get ones that either stick to the side of the bath, or float on the surface.
- Anti-slip flooring
Tiled bathrooms could prove a slip hazard, especially if the person you’re caring for is unsteady on their feet. And while towelling bath mats are useful for soaking up puddles of water, they can also be something that they might trip over, so they’re best avoided. Instead, you can fix special grips to shiny or slippery floors, which have a rough anti-slip texture.
- Bath and shower mats
If the bath or shower cubicle doesn’t already have anti-slip flooring, you can get rubber mats with special sucker pads that let you stick the mat directly to the bottom of the bath or shower to reduce the risk of slipping. Many will provide additional cushioning, which can make sitting and lying in the bath more comfortable, too.
- Bath steps
Mobility problems could mean raising your leg to step up into the bath could prove difficult. If this is the case, a bath step could be a handy investment. It’s a simple plastic step (often with a special anti-slip surface) that will provide a step-up for someone getting into the bath. They can be adjusted in height depending on how high the bath is.
These products are good for…
Boosting confidence and providing peace of mind for carers, while ensuring the safety of the person with dementia.
Top tip
Make sure the colours of the bathroom units – toilet, sink – contrast with the flooring as people with dementia (and older people in general) can struggle with colour contrasts. A different coloured toilet seat could also be useful.

Mobility

Your dilemma
Moving around the bathroom has become harder for the person you care for and the last thing you need is to worry about them falling or slipping, especially as there are usually no soft areas to fall on, such as what you might find in a bedroom or living room.
Products to help
- Rails

Relatively easy to install, grab rails can be very helpful for someone who has limited mobility. Whether it’s a rail to help pull themselves up from the toilet, or a handle to help lower themselves into the bath, knowing that they’re there can help to boost confidence in someone with dementia and provide support for a carer.
- Shower chairs
Free-standing or wall-mounted shower chairs are useful if the person you’re caring for can’t stand for long periods of time. It means they can sit and be washed easily in a chair that is suitable for water.
- Bath seats and boards
A relaxing soak can be an enjoyable way to bathe for someone with limited mobility, but you’ve first got to get over the hurdle of getting into and out of the bath. Bath seats and bath boards can be useful here. Bath seats rest above the bath and make it easier to wash over the bath (without actually lowering yourself fully into the water). A bath board has a similar use, but as it rests across the bath, it can be easily removed.
- Bath lifts
If the person you’re caring for would rather be properly submerged into a bath, then a lift will help to lower them into the water. They’re usually operated electronically with a button that will raise or lower the bath seat.
These products are good for…
Boosting independence and providing some much-needed support for carers.
Good to know
Bath seats and lifts are VAT exempt.

Comfort

Your dilemma
Bathing the person you care for has turned into a slightly traumatic experience, and you desperately need something that will help to soothe, calm and make the whole process more comfortable.
Products to try:
- Bath pillows

Lying back in the bath can be uncomfortable for older people, particularly if they’re suffering from pressure sores, but putting a waterproof pillow in the bath can help to alleviate this.
- Inflatable bath seats
These are useful as a mobility aid as well as for comfort. They work by gradually inflating and deflating to raise and lift someone in and out of the bath. So, the seat is inflated before they get in, deflated after they’re sat in it so it drops into the bath, and then re-inflated at the end of bath to help you get them out.
- Aromatherapy essential oils
Essential oils can be extremely relaxing when added to bath water, or diluted and used as a massage oil. They can be useful not just for creating a relaxing spa-like environment, but also to help reduce challenging behaviour such as agitation and restlessness. Make sure you read the instructions on the amount of drops that should be used, as high amounts of essential oil can be very powerful, and even interact with some medications.
- Massage oils
While you can add essential oils to a carrier oil, to give them a scent, you can also use the carrier oil on its own. It’s good for massaging into arms and legs. However, if you’re using it in the bath, watch out as the oil could make the bath slippery, increasing the risk of falls.
- Bath toys
Not just for children, bath toys can actually be a useful addition to the bathroom if you’re looking after someone with dementia. Go for waterproof or plastic items that will keep them interested or distracted – sensory balls or puzzles are best.
These products are good for…
Aiding relaxation and reducing challenging behaviour such as restlessness, agitation and aggression.
Good to know
Typical massage carrier oils include sweet almond, peach kernel, grapeseed, avocado, jojoba and coconut oil.

Grooming

Your dilemma
It can be one of the earlier signs of problems – you notice that your spouse, friend or loved one is failing to wash properly, look after their hair or clean their teeth. Unfortunately, with memory lapses comes a higher chance of grooming issues. Additionally, a lack of mobility or co-ordination can make grooming harder as you can’t reach feet or hair as easily.
Products to help
- Foot care
We use our feet everyday, but they can become one of the most neglected areas of our body, often because they’re difficult to reach. This is particularly the case for older people who may not be flexible enough to reach their feet to tend to them. You should ensure that toenails are cut regularly with nail clippers, and corns or ingrown toenails are tended to by a chiropodist. Hard skin can be removed using a foot file, but you may want to start by soaking their feet in a foot bath or even an electronic foot spa to soften the skin. Finish with a foot moisturiser.
- Hair care
The person you’re caring for may need more help with looking after their hair, whether it’s washing it or drying it. Think about the type of shampoo or conditioner that they may need (such as a no tears solution if they don’t like suds in their eyes), and, if you can, encourage them to pick it. Shower caps may be useful to keep hair dry, but you can also buy versions that have dry shampoo inbuilt into them, so you can freshen up the hair without getting it wet. If the person you’re caring for can’t get to the bathroom easily, an inflatable hair washing basin can be very useful.
- Hand care
Like feet, hands are used regularly, but often neglected. And for someone with dementia, particularly if they struggle with tremors caused by Parkinson’s dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies, it can be difficult to look after them. Nails need to be kept short using clippers or nail files to avoid scratches. A really lovely activity if you’re caring for someone is to paint their nails and give them a manicure.
- Mouth care
Whether the person you’re caring for has real teeth or dentures, it’s vital that they brush them regularly. Poor dental health can lead to gum disease, dental decay and a very sore mouth. For someone with dementia, this can be particularly traumatic if they can’t remember why their mouth hurts, and could even lead to agitation or aggressive behaviour. When picking a toothbrush, go for one with soft bristles that will be gentle on gums. An electric toothbrush is good for cleaning teeth, but watch out as the sound of it may confuse or alarm someone with dementia. If they wear dentures, they’ll need denture paste and denture cleaning fluid. If the person you're caring for doesn't like having their teeth cleaned and tends to clamp down on your finger, a special finger guard could be useful.
These products are good for…
Maintaining a healthy standard of living and ensuring the person you care for retains a level of dignity.
Top tip
If the person you’re caring for has been refusing to bathe – perhaps because they think they don’t need to – encourage them to do an activity where they get noticeably dirty. For example digging the garden, or making a cake. Once they can see that they’ve got dirty, they may be more willing to have a wash.

Bedside bathing

Your dilemma
The person you’re caring for has had a fall recently and become a lot less mobile. You struggle to get them up to the bathroom as often and find bathing them harder.
Products to help
- Basins
Special basins that can be inflated and filled by the bed can be useful if the person you’re caring for can’t get into a bath anymore. You can get full length basins and smaller ones for hairwashing.
- Long handled brush
If the person you’re caring for struggles to reach round to brush their hair, a long handled brush can help make the process easier.
- Hair dryers
Go for hair dryers that are light to hold in case grip and strength has declined, such as a travel hairdryer. If you’re blowdrying their hair for them, they may prefer hairdryers that have a low power and heat so it’s not too harsh on their scalp.
These products are good for…
Maintaining healthy hygiene and dignity with minimal fuss, and so ensuring a good quality of life.
Good to know
Encourage the person you’re caring for to participate and help themselves as much as they can. Make sure you’re properly prepared for any bed bathing and you have someone available to help you if possible.

Hygiene

Your dilemma
You’re either bathing the person you care for yourself or with the help of another carer. You want to keep yourself clean and appear as professional as possible.
Products to help
- Gloves & aprons
Disposable gloves and aprons are useful if you’re regularly needing to help someone use the toilet or change incontinence items. You can simply use them and then throw them away, which will help to prevent the spread of bacteria that you might get with reusable aprons.
- Sanitisers
If you’re on the go, using a sanitising gel, foam, spray or wipe may be more convenient, for removing bacteria and helping to prevent the spread of infection.
- Cleaning products
Keep the bathroom and other equipment clean with the help of sprays and wipes.
These products are good for…
Maintaining good levels of hygiene, which is vital for ensuring the person you care for (and you) stays as healthy as possible.
Top tip
Have a hand sanitiser ready by the front door so you can use it when you come in from outside.