What Causes the Fear of Water in Some Aging Adults with Dementia?

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Sometimes dementia symptoms surprise even the best-informed dementia caregiver. Seniors with dementia may develop a fear of water, which ranks as one of the most curious symptoms of the syndrome. It can also cause consternation for caregivers, as it can make seniors resistant to baths and showers. Ahead, learn why some seniors with dementia are afraid of water and how to address this fear.

The Cause of the Fear

Before you can help your senior loved one overcome a fear of water, you have to identify the source of the problem. There are a range of reasons seniors with dementia develop aquaphobia, and caregivers can only devise effective adaptive strategies if they understand the root of the fear. 

Professional caregivers with training and experience in caring for seniors with dementia are often able to employ several different techniques that calm anxiety. Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Ambience In-Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.

Sensory Stimulation

As dementia progresses, seniors begin to experience the external world differently. The cognitive models related to sensory input begin to break down, and external stimuli can feel overwhelming. Many seniors become anxious when exposed to loud noises, flashing lights, or excessive visual clutter. For seniors vulnerable to overstimulation, water isn’t that different. These seniors are usually especially sensitive to showers, as any time spent beneath the stream of water can feel confusing and painful. While showers are a relaxing experience for many, to seniors with dementia, the water may feel like cascades of tiny needles. To counteract this fear, have your loved one take baths instead of showers. It’s also a good idea to go slow. Instead of making your loved one get into the bathtub all at once, allow him or her to sit beside the tub for a few minutes to acclimate. Gently clean your loved one’s hands, arms, or feet with a warm washcloth so he or she gets used to the feeling of water. If your loved one remains calm, have him or her step into the bath.

Feelings of Shame

Seniors with dementia often feel ashamed of their own helplessness and loss of independence. Bathing can be difficult for seniors with cognitive decline because it involves navigating slippery surfaces and performing tasks in a specific order. For some seniors, every attempt to take a bath is a reminder of their own vulnerability. They may prefer to avoid water altogether rather than face their water-related frustrations. In these cases, you may need to supervise your loved one’s bath time. You may also want to alter the bathing routine. Seniors are often more amenable to sponge baths than showers. For seniors who are having difficulty adjusting to a loss of independence, adaptive clothing can provide some much-needed privacy. 

An experienced professional caregiver who treats your loved one with dignity and respect can ease feelings of embarrassment. For dementia care Ambience families can count on, reach out to Ambience In-Home Care. Our compassionate caregivers use revolutionary memory care programs to help seniors stave off the progression of dementia, and they can also assist with a wide variety of important everyday tasks, including bathing, grooming, exercise, and cooking.

Feelings of Paranoia

Due to cognitive decline, normal situations can sometimes seem threatening or suspicious. Products used in the bathroom, ranging from bath bubbles to strongly scented bath gel, can be stress inducing for already frightened seniors. Warm bubble baths may make them feel like they’re being boiled alive, and an aromatic soap could be confused for poison. To stave off these reactions, take note of the scents and products that inspire negative reactions in your loved one, then try to create a soothing bath time experience that omits these triggers.

Water is vital to life and wellbeing, so if your loved one shows signs of fearing water, try these suggestions to relieve his or her anxiety. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Ambience In-Home Care, a leading provider of elder care Ambience, TX, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Ambience In-Home Care will work with you to customize a care plan that’s just right for your loved one’s needs. Call us today at (469) 573-4213 to discuss how we can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your loved one is being cared for with professionalism and compassion.


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