Mom's hygiene is horrid.

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Mom has dementia/Alzheimer's. She has a terrible memory. The State took away her driver's license. I have four sisters and we are all on the same page. One sister took her on vacation FROM her home and returned her TO my home to "visit" last July. We brought over a lot of her furniture and she is very comfortable. She no longer feels she is visiting us and thinks of this as her home. We never discuss her home annd she never asks or mentions it. My big problem...Mom is OCD about cleaning every speck of dirt off the floor or every leaf outside but she is AWFUL about her own personal hygiene. After about a month I got her in Depends and that was great. She refuses to bathe. I try for a sponge bath once a week and am lucky to get her to do it ervery 8-12 days. I try to let her be as independent and private as possible but she refuses. She doesn't think she needs it and she no longer has a sense of smell. I have it down to 15-20 minutes but I cannot rationalize with her. It gets to a week and I refuse to take her places until she bathes. She will stomp her cane (I am sure she is going to break my floors) and she will go to bed without dinner. She used to change into her nightgown at night but now sleeps in the same clothes until I can get her to bathe. I take her to a salon to get her hair washed and she complains some but does allow it to be done so far. She no longer feels when her Depends are wet. She only changes them when they are "dirty". They end up smelling nauseatingly putrid. I have had to actually tear the side so she was no longer able to pull them up just so she would HAVE to change them. Yesterday her Depends were full and stinky and I asked her to change them. She refused and went to bed and slammed the door without dinner. She took her jeans off during the night since they were wet but still did not change the Depends. I put the jeans in the hamper, otherwise she would put them back on when they were dry. I finally got her to use the clean ones and I could not find the dirty ones. She put the clean ones OVER the dirty ones. We had to go somewhere this morning and I couldn't have her smelling. She refused to take off the old ones. She 'showed' me they were both ok. I ended up tearing off the dirty ones and pulling them out! I hated doing that but she was acting like a 2y/o and I had to treat her as one. She won't wash her hands after going to the bathroom and I have started using sanitizer because she always likes to touch people while we are out. The other day she had "dirty" Depends and I offered to throw them out for her but she didn't want me to touch them because they were dirty. Then she refused to wash her hands and had a tantrum in the bathroom. She screams at me at the top of her lungs. I would not let her out of the bathroom until she washed. I finally pumped soap on her hands and she had to wash them. She hates to brush her teeth. I am lucky to get her to brush 2-4x/week. Today we had a dental appointment to get her teeth cleaned. She already had a rotten tooth pulled last summer. The hygienist tried and then the DDS tried (she liked him before) and she refused "I didn't ask for this" and continually told me to shut up when I would try to convince her. Then she threw a tantrum and we had to leave with horrid teeth intact. Hygeine is horrid but when not dealing with hygiene issues it really isn't bad having Mom with us. I know that sounds funny. I want to bring her to a car wash and run her through once a week. I am sure she would not bathe for a professional/stranger caregiver either. I am a nurse and know what I am doing. I think we would waste money having someone come out. When we had her at a retirement home for a week she refused to change or shower the whole week for them. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I am afraid to use baby wipes because I am sure they would end up in the toilet, if she used them at all. Thanks.

4 Comments

If it is possible, I would say "don't ask, just do..." hygiene should not be a choice. Make sure the environment is warm to minimize discomfort for her, and even asking for medication to use before procedures would not be wrong in this setting. There are a lot of people who need answers to this dilemma - sometimes the person is more competent to refuse care and that makes it even worse!
Well, well well...someone has finally addressed this issue.

I follow mom to the pot because half the time she forgets where it is...just a couple of feet away.

There is "that" smell that comes when it is time to bathe. She does not use adult diapers, but we all know we cannot go a week without a wash up down there.

When it is time for a bath, I do not ask or tell her that it is time...I just make sure she has her prescribed xanex 30 minutes prior and when she is on the pot, I fill the tub and she smiles like a kid that got caught. She cannot sit and soak in the tub (that would be heaven), so she has to sit on the tub chair and we get through it. She is on oxygen, so we have to do it quick.

In the meantime, during the non-bath days, I fill the sink with sudsy water, lay out a wash cloth and tell her to wash before she comes out. I have recently introduced her to a sits bath (I think that is what you call it). I fill it full of warm water and feminine soap and just when she is finished using the toilet, I tell her to stand up and I put the sits pot in place. I hand her a magazine and tell her I will be back in about 5 minutes. What a difference that sits pot makes inbetween baths. I had this sits pot when I had some issues with my pregnancy and I am SOOO glad I never tossed it.

When it is time for a bath, mom tells me that my bathroom smells, that the smell is not coming from her. I have to laugh and gag at the same time.

So sad. This isn't my mom. She would never want to smell.

What is even sadder is thinking about myself, don't you? What will we do if and when this day should ever come.

Will I remember taking care of my mom and how important hygiene is? Will I be a struggle for the person who cares for me if I live long enough to reach this stage of losing my mind?

Should I write notes to myself or shoot a video telling me to remember to take a bath or wash my butt?

One thing for sure, I will not put caring for me on a family member. This I am sure. I have been there and I am still doing it...my heart breaks for me and for my mom. I love her, pity her, hate who she has become, and cry all over again.
Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, Mom is not the least bit competent but she still has the mind of a 2y/o and knows what she does and doesn't want. She knows well how to throw a tantrum. There is no "don't ask, just do" in her situation because she won't. I tried that the other night in a warm bathroom and when I did wrestle her bra off (after over a week straight 24/7 wearing) she tried to whip me with it. I soaped her back and she screamed and got up and went to bed upper half naked, wet and soapy. She has no sense of smell so she has no clue she smells and won't believe us that she does. It took three more days before I finally got her to bathe. When I took her on vacation a few years ago and got a handicapped room so she could just walk in the shower she slammed the door, turned the water off and on for 10 sec, got the towel wet and walked out and got in bed fully dressed and just pissed. I have tried an anti-anxiety med and it does no good. I will ask the gerontologist for a stronger med for bath time and just know that I will have a wasted day or do it before bed. I like the idea of Xanax or Haldol but I will have to see what MD says. The sitz bath is a great idea but I am afraid she would still refuse. She had a walk in shower in her house and would not use it. I decided not to spend the money to make mine accessible for that since I don't think she will use it. I am content with a sponge bath but she refuses even that. She never was a "bather" but showered sometimes twice a day so it is hard to accept her this way. I do not regret having her here. My sisters and I all agree that this is not the mom who raised us and we do pity her. She actually has a good personality and is fun to be with EXCEPT for the bathing issue. I just thought about this from your comment. A friend has a fancy toilet seat like the Europeans do for a water squirter and I think I will look in to that. Just might be worth the expense to get her clean "down there" more regularly. I titally understand the love-hate relationship. I am so lucky I have my sisters who have some understanding and try their best to share in this ordeal. Thanks again.
Nsjmk77...I totally appreciate your honesty and as sad as it is, you made me laugh out loud. I am trying to write this on an I pad so excuse my mistakes. My mom started to let her appearance go long before the strokes sent her into the thick throws of dementia. As much as your mom hates her bath, mine makes up crazy lies such as I took a bath yesterday. I can hardly deal wih writing on this device so I will talk more later.

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