Mother living with me is not showering or bathing...Help!

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My MIL is 84 and I quit my job to stay home and be her caregiver..she can bathe herself but refuses to. When I tell her she needs to take a bath, sometimes she will cry and ask "why are you torturing me"..REALLY?!? She says she doesnt like to bathe because she gets cold...I turn the heat up (1 degree) and she will get in the tub. I was taking her to get her hair washed once a week, at a salon, and it was such a chore getting her to leave the house. She has started to wash her hair herself. I feel like if someone comes to visit, and she reeks of b.o, it reflects on me..I tell her that either she takes a bath now, or she can wait until her son gets home (my husband) and he will make sure she does..that usually does the trick :)
Hi Spooky and Macismom, we are also new to this caregiving thing .... two months with FIL, and my nerves are shredded.

We had the same thing with his clothes, they are so stinky that it is impossible to get the smell out of them - underpants and socks worn for over a week at a time until they have a life of their own and are breeding colonies for who knows what! My entire house started to smell of sour, unwashed, rotten, and I was almost gagging when I passed his room to get to the bathroom. (I wash everything of his twice, once in half a litre of vinegar, and then again with regular soap and softener)

I also felt that this reflects on me, but actually I am learning very slowly that we need to detach and let it go ... this doesn't reflect on you at all. People are very aware, more so than we think and make allowances for their "hygiene or non hygiene level." Where I drew the line was: you can smell how you chose to smell, but I WILL NOT ALLOW my house to smell so bad. You have the right to chose how you want to be, you do not have the right to inflict that on all of us ... and then I handed responsibility for that to my husband, becasue it is a) his dad and b) he asked us to have him in our home.

My husband finally took him clothes shopping and told him quite sternly that it was unfair on him to look like a tramp all the time, and if he was living in his home, could he please dress in decent clothes.

I also got my husband to do the harsh talking: its his dad, not mine, and so if he wants his dad to live with us, he needs to get involved with saying how things are going to be ..... like you need to change your underpants once a day, your socks once a day, thats just the rule in THIS house; no, you cannot wear that jersey again, it is dirty/you dripped egg on it/you have worn it for three days.

We found that we have to have rules and routine and stick to it: supper at 7pm, bathtime at 8.30, (and if he hasn't started to run it, then we say, its bathtime now), bed at 9.30 pm (because otherwise the entire family goes nuts as we have no downtime, if he stays up later).

My husband gives him a job to do everyday while he is at work, so he potters around all day being "busy" and then he has a "meeting" to feedback to him in the evening of his progress, eg: researching something on the internet, or getting something ready for a hardware project they are working on, or reading how the diagnostics work on the dishwasher so we can do a maintenance cycle on it (he is an ex phsyics professor, so he still has this faculty to be quite "academic").

If we are going out, then you have an hour to get ready, and we will either compliment him on how he looks, or suggest what he should wear. (If I say it, it doesn't happen, if my husband does it then it will get done).

Its not easy this, adjusting to someone else in the house. My FIL is very critical and negative, and just this morning I had a long talk to him about how he treats me and the kids. We'll see how that goes.

But for now, I am trying to do what I read here somewhere on this forum: day by day, safe spaces, borders and parameters, family time without him around.

Not an easy job is it? Sending you both hugs!
This is sooooo familiar.My husband was a physician and always immaculate to go to work. Two years into his dementia (he was 55 when it started) he refused to shower but once every four or five days, wouldn't change his underwear or socks, wouldn't brush his teeth, etc. He stank to high heaven with yellow sweat tee shirts, mossy teeth and skid mark underwear. I couldn't convince him to clean up. His mother would bring him bath wash, toothpaste, and deodorant like he didn't have any and I would have to tell her that he had plenty and just wouldn't use it. After about 2 years of this, he slowly started forgetting how to do things correctly and I offered to help. He first allowed my to help him shave. The rest followed so that I gradually took over his hygiene completely with daily showers, brushing teeth, and shaving. His stash of bath products and toothpaste from his mother finally got used up. LOL
Back to your MIL, she may just be afraid of falling. Be sure the bath is safe with lots of grab bars in the shower and to get out of the tub. Make sure there is slip-proof mat inside the shower/tub, and put a shower chair in the shower if there is room. Instead of bath rugs, use just a towel-mat like they have in hotels or another rubber bath mat to step out on. Rugs can cause slips and trips. Install a shower head with a flexible hose for ease of use.

At some point, you might just offer to help and she will accept it. Another idea is to see if you can get visiting home care for her personal care needs. Somebody 3 days a week for a couple of hours might be affordable. Check the agencies in your area. Our local hospitals keep a list of their employees who want to pick up extra work doing a little private duty. They usually don't charge as much as the agencies do. Good luck and hugs.
For bathing: We use a calendar to mark each day where a bath and hair are both done so Mom can see when she last did this. We hope for twice a week, but it doesn't always work out that way. She will wash up daily. I put everything in the bathroom that she needs, then turn the water on and tell her it's all ready to go! Works about 70% of the time. We also have lots of grab bars in our shower and outside the shower for when she gets out. (twotonne: that is too funny about the loads of shower supplies. I just realized that this is what my sibs have been doing for a few years on every gift occasion for Mom. They just don't understand that this part of her life has changed so much)
For clothing: At ALZ seminar, they talked about alz/dem patients getting hooked on same outfit. Solution? Buy seven of the same outfit and swap the clothes out when they sleep. What does it hurt? I do this with a pair of pants my mother is very fond of.
She can't smell what we are smelling (kind of like you never appreciate your own perfume). She was always immaculately groomed when she went out so sometimes I can appeal to her sense of style and other times, I just dowse her with body spray if we have to go out without a bath or clean clothes.
Hang in there!
Thank you for asking for help. I hope you find something that helps you from the other posts today.

For me, being committed to a weekly caregiving support group has been a tremendous help. I have learned techniques that help me and my mom, who has Alzheimer's dementia, keep her clean, safe, comfortable, and calm.

And at the same time, speaking with the Social worker(s) assigned to the different Adult Day Care Center(s) has also been a tremendous help. They too have helped me keep my mom, Grace clean, safe, comfortable, and calm.
My mom at this point is at a much later stage now than what I'm reading here. She doesn't like to wash her hands, face, hair, shower, etc. She screams like she's being tortured for less than 30 seconds, and then she loves the rest of the shower. I suspect she is sensitive in a way that we normally are not. the water shocks her and then she gets used to it. I know someone with cerebral palsy who also screams when taken into the shower. It helps to have the water just the right temperature--warm but not too warm, not too cool. Be gradual. Never is my mom dirty or smelly, but I do have to change her frequently and I feel like I'm running a laundromat. To prevent UTIs, she gets cleaned every time after defecating. An ounce of prevention, etc. Also, try to make it fun; it helps to overcome the fear. I would take a warm wet cloth to clean my mom's hands and count each finger as it's done "1,2,3,4,5." Now I can hand her the cloth and she does it herself and seems to enjoy it. Before that, she would take the cloth and hurl it across the room, slam it on the table or even throw it at me. If I walked her over to the sink, she would scream. Now, she does that voluntarily too, sometimes. Yes we need the patience of saints and the understanding of Einstein. I don't force, because I found out that only increases the resistance. Convince her it is good, and make it a prerequisite for something that she wants to do. For example, "We can't watch television until we get cleaned and dressed."
My heart goes out to all of you who have written about your problems and suggestions as caregivers. My husband has dementia but because of long term care insurance we have a caregiver who comes in Mon--Fri and she is a wonderful helper. My husband also had a stroke and his walking and balance are off. Last night after my birthday dinner at my daughter and son-in-law's house my husband got up to leave the table to go home and fell down. From an exercise therapist I learned to have him get onto his knees, then hold onto a chair to help pull himself up. The 3 of us helped him to stand up. He wears a wrist band with an emergency button to call for help which we have used and the fire department sends men out to lift him when he falls inside and outside our home area.
Please try to love the person you are taking care of. Words of compassion and compliments help them. Don't criticize if you can help it, there is always a way to tell them something without hurting their feelings. I know it is so difficult but think about your being in their situation. I love my husband of 56 years and I read this website knowing that eventually I may need the advice that is so helpful from all of you. THANK YOU for your advice and keep your chins up...Huge HUGS to all.
I like the idea of having 7 of the same outfit, but everytime I buy 2 of something my MIL won't wear it. If I buy 1 and she does like it, it isn't available to buy more. I simply do laundry after she dresses for bed. The same outfit is clean and ready to wear. I do the same with her gown. So what if she wears the same thing for a day or two.
Hi Spooky1962. I hope you are doing well since your original post. I wanted to share with you an article that one of our experts has on our site. I hope it helps.

I wish you the best, Team

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