How To Handle A Dementia Patient Refusing Personal Care

Written By: William Rivers
Reviewed By: William Rivers
Published: June 29, 2022
Last updated: July 28, 2022

When a person with dementia refuses to do something that their caregivers or loved ones want them to do, this is referred to as 'refusal' or 'resistance.' Rather than expecting the person with dementia to follow our wishes, we need to work with theirs.

A dementia patient refusing personal care is quite typical, especially in the latter stages of dementia. This means a higher level of dementia care is required to cope and still deliver optimal caretaker success. People who cannot provide care services at a professional level must be adaptable enough to fit into an individual's routine. 

Read on to learn more about aggressive dementia patients and how to respond professionally to those refusing personal care. 

Why Do Dementia Patients Refuse Personal Care?

Personal care is an intimate activity, and most people will have difficult feelings if they require assistance with it. Attempting to force a person with dementia to accept personal care is abusive. 

The ability to say 'no' is a fundamental human right. A person's health may be jeopardized when their care needs are neglected. As a result, it is critical to understand and address the person's reason for refusing. 

When a person with dementia communicates verbally or nonverbally that they do not want to do something, we need to figure out why. It's possible that:

  • The individual does not understand what is being asked of them.
  • The request we are making does not correspond to the person's standards and preferences; for example, we ask them to eat something they dislike or go to bed when they prefer to stay awake.
  • The person believes they are being talked down to or bossed around and refuses to comply to maintain control.
  • The individual misinterprets the situation or environment; for example, the individual may interpret a shiny floor as wet and refuse to walk on it.

What To Do When A Patient Rejects Personal Care

When your dementia-affected patient refuses assistance, your first reaction may be frustration. Is the patient unwilling to receive assistance? It may be difficult for you to understand, just as it may be difficult to understand why they require assistance. Below are a few ways to cope with patients that need personal care but refuse to. 

Establish A Medication Routine

When your patient refuses to help, it takes time to build trust and understanding. They may refuse medication because they cannot explain side effects, do not understand the purpose of the medication, or do not recognize or trust their caregiver. 

Begin by comprehending what your patient desires, and then base your routine on that. It will require patience, but it will make administering medication to your loved one much easier.

Adjust To The Personal Hygiene Rituals Of The Patient

Understanding your patient's preferences is the best way to keep them clean. When your dementia-affected patient refuses assistance, ask specific questions about whether they prefer a shower over a bath. 

Maybe the water is too hot or too cold. Although it may not appear to be a big deal, adapting some of your patients' personal preferences can help them stick to a hygiene routine.

Inspire Them to Eat

Offer a sweet meal to your patient with dementia to encourage food consumption. Sweet flavors like pudding, sliced fruit, and cereals can help them get hungry. To keep your patient-focused on eating, keep distractions away from the dining room. 

When a person with dementia refuses care or assistance at lunch or dinner, the cause could be a loss of appetite. Encourage your loved ones to get some exercise in the morning and afternoon to help them develop a healthy appetite. It's crucial to know that you should never try to force-feed them. This will only exacerbate the situation.

Explain Their Medications To Them As Often As Possible

People who have dementia may also refuse to take medication because they do not understand or have forgotten what it is for. Each time their medication is offered, it is critical to provide a clear explanation – using words and symbols, if necessary, that the person can understand. 

A person may take several different tablets and only be willing to swallow each one after being reminded of its purpose. A person with dementia is much less likely to accept medication if they do not fully trust the staff member offering it. This emphasizes the importance of developing trusting relationships with each person suffering from dementia.

Taking the high road is often a necessity in the line of work of caretakers. Setting up a routine and explaining to your patient what they have to do daily is critical to combating aggressive patients with dementia. Learn more about dementia activities for elders in a nursing home by reading through our blogs at Senior Strong. 

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William Rivers is an editor with a master’s degree in Human Services Counseling at Maine State University. He has more than 20 years of experience working in the senior healthcare industry.
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