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Asking for help


“She’s really combative,” the staff member complained, as I popped my head into the doorway. “Carol keeps slapping my hand away when I’m trying to wash her face.”

Carol’s was pleasantly sitting on a shower bench. She didn’t seem “combative,” but I watched as my staff member took the washcloth and reached for her face. As her hand went up to touch her, she slapped it away. “See!” she cried. “Look what she’s doing.”

“Hang on,” I sighed. It seemed pretty obvious: she was afraid. Most people don’t like when someone they don’t know reaches for their face. “Carol, can you help me?” I asked. “Can you hold this washcloth and wash your face while I wash your legs?” Carol nodded and let me put the washcloth in her hand. I guided her own hand to her face and she began calmly washing while we cleaned the rest of her.

ALWAYS ask people with dementia for “their help” with starting an activity. This could be anything: a shower, painting a birdhouse, a walk outside, completing a puzzle. When people are asked for help, they are much more likely to agree to do the task.

If someone asks you, “Do you want to help me?” you think to yourself, “DO I WANT TO?” and that’s what you respond to. If someone asks you, “CAN YOU help me?” you respond to the “Can you” part.

By making someone feel necessary and important, you are way more likely to get them to participate.


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