Potential brilliant idea about my grandmother's bathing habits.

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This is for the grandmother who just had a knee replacement. It's kind of a long story about her lack of bathing. She got really sick about 2 or 3 years ago and it damaged her kidneys. When she was in the hospital and rehab center to get her strength back, she refused to bathe. We had said that there are nurses that would help her bathe and giver her tips to stay safe in the bathroom when she got home. But she expected my mom and I to help her bathe but I was really uncomfortable with that and refused to do it. My mother would redirect her to the nurses helping her and said it was up to her to either go shower alone or have the nurses help. Needless to say for almost a month, she refused to bathe. After that, she has been bathing maybe once a month and dousing herself in perfume to try and make us think that she bathed. We can smell BO under all that perfume and see the oily, matted hair. After the knee replacement and the last massive blow up, we find out from the visiting nurse that makes sure that she is doing her physical therapy, that she made some changes to her bathroom but still refuses to bathe. All she has been talking about is either getting a cab to the mall to get her perfume or calling me to order a few bottles and ship it to her front door. She doesn't go anywhere except to the doctor's office to to the grocery store. I don't know if the doctor cleared her to drive or not. But I am not buying her bottles of perfume for Christmas.

I was thinking for Christmas is getting her 2 bottles of Euphoria (her favorite perfume) bath soap and maybe one bottle of the body lotion. I'm hoping that it will encourage her to bathe on a regular basis. Has anyone done the whole bathing issue this way?


Buying bath soap and body lotion won't help get an elder to bathe. What happens when one gets older is the fear of falling in the tub/shower.... or if the elder has Alzheimers/dementia, they don't like how water feels when coming out of the shower head.

There is also claustrophobia, the fear of being in small places. Not much one can do about that. If there are glass doors, maybe removing them and replace with a shower curtain might help, but no guarantee.

For inbetween bathes, use baby wipes that she can use to "wash", find one that has a nice smell. And good luck.
Getting someone to bathe is a frequent topic here on aging care, and there are many, many helpful tips. You need to start by identifying the root cause of her not keeping clean. Since someone who tries can do a very good job with sponge baths I wonder if there is not some degree of dementia involved.

I agree with FF, bribes aren't the answer. Baby wipes may help. There are various no rinse shampoos too that can help keep her hair nice between regular baths. Perhaps hiring a bath aide to come in weekly?
She will lie through her teeth and say she is bathing. When you check the tub it will be bone dry. For shampooing, we found mom really liked the no-rinse shampoo cap that you can warm up in hot tap water. After a month of no bathing, Grandma will end up with skin fungus under the breasts and in between toes. Private parts will be especially problematical.
Please be sure she is not driving. Her executive decision making is not good, and if she cannot coordinate in and out of a tub, she can't control a vehicle either.
I agree with everybody else. Not bathing is a signal to you that something else is going on, and it's usually cognitive decline. That is a hallmark behavior with dementia.

"Don't want to" is code for "I physically can't and am scared to try." No bribe, logic, or reasoning is going to change that.

Someone in her life has to care enough to intervene and setup an in-home service OR have her put in a place where she will be safe from her own bad decisions. What grandma wants is not really a defining factor anymore. It's about what will keep her safe and healthy. Being dirty is not healthy.
Well, having a knee replacement surgery is not grounds for not bathing. I had both knees total replacement with metal parts in 2010 and it was devastating. I have always taken care of myself, bathed every day, etc. I couldn't even go to the bathroom by myself for several days. But I was adamant that I would take care of myself no matter what happened. Pain meds usually make a person drowsy and unstable on their feet but it also made the shower easier to do because it lessened the pain. Patients who refuse to bathe usually have other problems going on even though they use the surgery as the excuse. I agree with others here that the beginning stages of dementia need to be checked out by the doctor. Whether she has dementia or not, she needs to be put in the tub at least 3 times a week if not more, no matter what the excuse is for not doing it. A person who is unstable on their feet can sit in a plastic chair in the tub, attach a shower head with hose to the faucet and wet her down, soap her up and rinse her off. She might be able to stand for a few minutes so you can wash her backside and rinse her. Also, you can get the bath cloths that you microwave. They contain cleaning agents that don't have to be rinsed if your mother flat refuses to use the plastic chair. Use the cloths while warm and dry her off. She will feel just like she's had a bath. If the local pharmacy doesn't have them, you can either order them online or go to a medical supply store where they should have them. I saw them at CVS pharmacy. Something has to be done by somebody and refusing to do it doesn't help the woman. She can get all types of infections from being dirty which in turn can infect others who handle her. That's not sanitary. Either bathe her in the tub, wash her with the hot cloths, or hire a CNA to come in and bathe her. If none of these options work, check on an Assisted Living Facility with Medicaid to see if she qualifies. You can't just not do anything or she's going to get sick from the bacteria and other problems will occur. Good luck with her.
Well, Evermore, a bottle of a nice lotion might be a good present. You could rub the lotion on her arms and hands while visiting. It may convey some comfort and love. But don't count on it to solve the bathing problem.

Her lack of cleanliness is not the result of a deficiency of Euphoria soap.

She MIGHT do better with a bath aide. My mother fought all of us tooth and nails. So the first week she was in the nursing home I was amazed when the aide came in and said, "It is time now for your shower. Let's pick out some clean clothes to bring with us," my mother did not protest at all. As far as I know, she has never objected to the staff giving her a shower. Maybe if you had someone come in on Tuesday mornings to matter-of-factly help Grandma shower she would accept that. (Or maybe not, of course.)

Unless she is incontinent, once a week ought to do it with a shower or bath, if she is reasonably compliant with good hygiene the rest of the week.
Good Gracious! Perfume and body odor smells horrendous and is not sanitary. Please bathe her at least 3 times a week or twice a week if she won't agree to any more. Don't put perfume on her if she hasn't bathed, it only smells worse!
My grandmother does not live with my parents and I. If she did, things would be very different. It would be the you want to live with us, you shower every day or every other day. Grandma lives on her own and she grudgingly let my dad install one of those bath chairs and one of those hand held shower devices to it would make it much easier for her to bathe. We think that some of this reasoning is that if she doesn't have to go anywhere, she refuses to take a full bath. Since she is judged competent, we can't force her to do anything. So we are just waiting for the next crisis that lands her in the hospital and then we are going to have a geriatric doctor treat her. We do think that there is age related decline or maybe dementia at work. She does have some incontinent issues and uses the lightest liner she can find but she smells like pee. I don't know if time escapes her and she doesn't realize that she hasn't gone to the bathroom after 4 hours or it just doesn't register that she really has to pee. I thought that maybe getting her bath stuff would make her a little more willing to bathe and maybe go to the bathroom at the same time. Every time before I get into the shower, I have to pee. I think it's the sound of running water that does it.

What do you mean that she was judged competent? Have you tried to get guardianship and failed? Just curious. Since she is not only refusing to bathe, but also has incontinence issues, I would consult with her doctor sooner than later.

If it is dementia, it's not likely she will agree and volunteer to get help. Help is often met with resistance and waiting for her to get better judgment, reconsider or get motivated, isn't likely to happen. I hope it doesn't take the crisis, you mentioned, but sometimes that is the case.

I think I might try to get the doctor on board with support though. If the doctor knew of the bathing issue and her incontinence issues, he may be able to help. Maybe he could prescribe it and accept a bathe aid more willingly. In light of these symptoms, I would be too alarmed to leave her alone too.

Do you or other family members have Durable POA and Healthcare POA? I'd try to confirm that.
Trust me, you could have imported Queen Elizabeth's favorite towels and it won't make a difference in the moment. My mom was the Olympic gold medalist at avoidance. She would be mean, hit, claw, spit to not do it. Yell, scream, pitch hissy fits on the floor. So after all that, somebody being only "mad" doesn't phase me at all.

Part of dementia is losing the sense of smell. They literally can't smell their own BO, smoke, rotten food, and that is a major safety problem. Especially living alone.

You don't have to force. You & mom have to take steps. You have to do the responsible thing even if she doesn't like it. This means you may have to learn to communicate & relate to her very differently than ever before. You may have to be more strong willed than her. It's not to her detriment, it's for her well being. This is an aspect in early caregiving that many, many people are uncomfortable with.

My mom moldered away in her house alone for 15 more years than she should have because nobody wanted to step in and deal with it incrementally. She would scream & holler "DON'T PUSH ME!!!" so nobody did. I got fed up and told her that she was acting like a spoiled brat and that today was the day I put my foot up her butt to push her. You need ___, and it's happening today. The end. Not my finest moment, but it was a pivotal one. I finally embraced my role. Now I know where my teens got their backtalking ability from!

It was a journey to learn how to get her to do anything. How much to say or not say, when to announce in advance or not. It was not easy & I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but nothing fatal. We learn by doing.

My mom was only urine incontinent at the time and totally out of touch with what she should be doing about it. Waiting for our loved ones to figure it out only leads to worse and faster decline. They will never figure it out. Mom kept a UTI because she would not change. She couldn't smell or feel the wetness and believed she was wasting them if she changed. Then she had an accident out in the store, and went totally the other way and would wear many pads and briefs at one time. My aunt mentioned to mom that she smelled and should use a different pad, and I had to sit through a 20 minute rant on the phone over it. Annoying, but not the end of the world.

They will get unmad as fast as they get mad, and there are far worse things than grandmom being mad over a bath. Do everything you can so when the day comes you explain to a social worker from APS what you've tried, you will have no worries.

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