My 80-year-old mother hardly bathes and is a heavy smoker. How do we discuss hygiene with her?

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I approach any discussion with my Mom in the same spirit as how I would talk to a best friend. That is not to say that it will work with any elder, but in my opinion, it is always a good place to start.

"You'd probably want me to tell you this even though it may not be what you want to hear...."
I have the same problem and i wrote them out a list of things to do every day. change clothes even if they are not dirty, brush hair everyday, take a shower on shower day, clean their room, wash their hands and face daily. i had to do it in an elementary kind of way. i also reward them for good "behavior" when i can. hope this helps
My Mom is the very same way, it helps when I buy her new clothes and shoes to get her to thankful that she bathes at all. I think they sometimes want you to know that THEY are in control of something, and they are going to let you know that by NOT doing what you ask them to do, in this case bathing.
Has she always been a person who doesn't bathe everyday?
In the past she was always very clean. She would always do her hair, makeup and dress nicley and she always smelt good! It has been just recently that she has stopped the bathing it seems. She even tells us she did when it is obvious that she hasn't. It is extrememly frustrating. She has always had a time with washing her hair as she has had a freight of water. She never learned how to swim so I thought now maybe that had something to do with it but her shower is huge so she can get away from the water if she wants and can sit down in it as well. I am so upset that I have such a heard time with it and not more patient. I don't smoke and the smell just kills me and then on top of the not bathing and the little white lies about it...its tough.
does she live with you or somewhere else? do you have anyone helping you with her? if you don't most insurance will pay for a home health aid and it will first take the burden off of you and second it will be new person telling her what she needs to do. it's kinda like kids they will not listen to mommy but they will daddy.... hope it helps big hugs.

Since she's exhibiting symptoms of severe depression, it's understandable that smoking is the only thing that seems to give her any pleasure and that taking a long, hot bath every day isn't a priority for her.

Use talk therapy. Find out the underlying causes of her depression, then see how you can team up with her doctor to alleviate these symptoms. When there's no hope that life will get better, every day is the same -- same clothes, same brand of cigarettes. Sometimes you wish you could close your eyes and never wake up; and become more depressed when you wake up and realize you're stuck in a time warp where events keep repeating themselves over and over.

A change of scenery would help. A walk through the park, a nail salon, even picking a pumpkin for Halloween. I'm sure there are a lot of joyful things she used to do, and I don't see why you can't help her relive those moments and feel alive again. Good luck.

-- ED
Could it be that she's afraid to shower or get in/out of tub alone? Often elders have a fear of falling due to broke hips, etc. If she's a smoker she might also have breathing issues that are made worse by steam. Tell her you want to ensure her bathroom is safe - ask her to show you how she gets off and on the toilet and in/out of shower or tub. There are all kinds of things you can do to make it safer and easier to use: grab bars placed horizontally or vertically depending on their ability to use hands or arms. You can get an adjustable shower head that slides up and down to better accommodate shower chairs. You can also get a sliding shower chair so the elder can sit on it outside the tub then slide into the tub and put their feet down, this might require a bit of assistance so they don't fall over back wards.

Once you see how she moves about the toilet and bath, go to a medical equipment rental company and look at all the contraptions, there's bound to be one to help her. Best of luck to you and your Mom.
Angie, I understand what you are going through. My heart goes out to you, I live in the very same situation. My Mother will make deals with me, if I go get her cigarettes, she will go to the doctor, and then , of course, I have to reschedule because she is being stubborn that day. I'm thankful that there are still doctors who will work with you and not turn you away because you cancel a few appointments.
Please keep me posted as to how you are dealing with this...I need suggestions myself.

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