My 78-year-old mom refuses to shower and bathe and will not let anyone inside her home. What can we do to help her?

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She had a stroke in 2009.

Answers 1 to 10 of 11
I know how rough this is for you. My parents have six children and only want one to be the caregiver. Please, please, please take care of yourself. You mom is not likely to want assistance from anyone but you. Bath time: With parents our age, they used to take "washcloth" baths when they grew up, and your mom probably doesn't see anything wrong with not getting in the bathtub or shower. My dad did not want to take a shower either. This was hard to watch since he used to take a shower all the time. One of the biggest things about taking a shower is that they get real cold, real fast. And, most shower heads are water saver, which puts more air into the water which makes them colder yet. Makes bathing time real miserable for both the parent and caregiver. You probably already know this, however, it bears repeating; make the bathroom warm with a little ceramic heater. Even in the summertime, if that a/c was blowing it was a no go! My dad didn't have much meat on his bones and the thought of getting cold would upset him. Use a hand held shower head that lets the water "pour" out instead of spraying. Use a bathtub chair so she doesn't have to stand or sit in the water. Makes it easier to get in and out of tub/shower too. If you still can't get her to bathe, try the baby-type wipes. Get a warmer for the wipes in the baby section of Target or Walmart. Let her keep a warm robe on while cleaning. Just maybe if she feels like she can stay warm and bathe at the same time, she will be more cooperative. Keep the warmer in an area where she spends most of her time and use the wipes for a variety of things so she gets used to them and doesn't think they are for "babies" only. Work her into using them for herself a little at a time. If you just spring it on her, she will resist. Patience is the hardest thing to maintain, but the most important while helping you mom to keep her dignity and your love. Hope this helps at least a little bit. Take care,
Your friend's Mom may feel unsteady in the bath or shower and modest about having her son or someone unrelated help her. However, there is a significant health and safety issue related to not keeping clean for 5 months. Is it possible to take her to her doctor for a check up and at the same time have the doctor or the nurse look at her body to ensure she does not have any sores or infections related to not bathing? Perhaps her doctor can advise her and recommend (and perscribe, if she gets Medicare) a home health aide to come in even once a week to assist her with her hygiene. Perhaps coming from her doctor she may be more open to the idea.
Best regards!
Consult with her doctor, a social worker (at local hospital),
and Pray!
My mother-in-law did the P.T.A. (pits, tits, a**) with a wash cloth method for a decade at least. We never knew because #1 she didn't smell and #2 it wasn't until her husband died and we started taking care of her that we found out. My father-in-law washed her hair in the sink all those years because she didn't like the water running in her eyes etc. After finding out the reason she used the PTA thing, (afraid of falling in tub) we changed it up for her with the shower chair and some other safety stuff. Now she says she loves taking a shower, but still won't wash her own hair. For that we have a standing appt in her asst living place with the hairdresser. I picked up the slack of washing her hair there for about a year, but this gal washes, and sets and dries her hair which she loves.
All of the above are great answers. Trying comfort measures, respecting a person's issues of modesty and making sure that there are not health or psychiatric issues involved.
If it makes you feel any better, my 80 year old father has lived in my home for over a year now. I have struggled with the hygiene issue as well. It is as if he is "allergic" to bath water. He will only take a shower if he is going to the doctor, then he appears clean shaven and groomed. So I know he knows he NEEDS a BATH! I even resort to telling him he has and odor, but he just gives me any look like I am being mean. I have decided that for the most part it is too much trouble and he is COLD all the time. I have caregivers but he refuse their help. So it really is a dilemma. This has to be a form of dementia?or perhaps a sign?especially in a person who always prided themselves in appearance. Very handsome man who wore suits to work.
Hygiene is important for all of us. In the elderly we don't want the skin to break down. Hospice is bathing my mom 3 times a week now. My mom has the diagnosis of diability. Up until hospice she would only let me shower her unless she was in the hospital or rehab facility. Call your local Area Agency on Aging for help & or Adult Protective Services both are excellent agencies that can help your parent.
Sorry I do not have the answer, but I am so pleased to see others having the same problem with their aged parents. I and my family have been feeling very isolated, and at a loss. Our Mother is also 78 years old, with 8 children, a very close support family, and Dad 84 years old who tries his been to care for her with our help. Mum has refused to have an operation over the last 5 years on her parathyroids, so we have seen her deteriorate espescially this year. She has neglected her hygienge needs over the last 4 months, with mood swings. We made a breakthrough when we managed to comb her matted hair 1 month ago, which she had stopped combing for 2 she lets us comb her hair daily. She had not had a bath or wash for 4 months and last week we took matters into our own hands and gave her to have a bath. As emotionally draining as it was for my sisters and I we managed to do the task. We ensured the rooms were heated, were patient and gentle when we undressed her and bathed her, and all throughout she protested violently until it was over. With time, patience, love, and care we managed to give her a bath. We as a family will be doing this every Saturday, hoping it will get easier as it did with combing her hair. She had a needs assessment 2 weeks ago and has also been diagnosed with possible mild vascular dementia, but at this stage she is still physically and mentally able. Our family continue to support our Dad, as Mum refused to have homecare from outside sources. We are blessed to have sisters who are nurses, but it still makes it no easier to get Mum to want to bathe or wash. Mum will always be taken care at home, as taking her to hospital and a nursing home is not an option for our family. Any suggestions on how we can get our Mother to want to maintain her hygiene would be much appreciated. Thank you so much in advance for shareing

If there's nothing wrong with her upstairs, she probably smells that way because she wants to be alone. Sometimes, trying to avoid hurting some else's feelings, we beat around the bush with sensitive, politically-correct hooey. It's time for an intervention! Buy a nice towel, pajamas, slippers, and toiletries. Bring them to her house. Go into the shower and set it for her. Then tell her to go wash her a__. Do it every weekend. She'll get with the program. The next weekend you show up, either she'll be all prettied up or the cops will be on the porch with an order of protection. Now go shopping before all the inspiration is gone. Good luck.
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Thank you so much Newman for your response. Since my original posting we have given Mum her 2nd bath on Saturday, and admittedly it was easier that the 1st one we gave her 2 weeks ago. She still protested and played having a seisure before being carried to the bath tub. Mum has always been very strong willed, so this experience of not being in total control is very foreign to her. You are so right..intervention time now. Dad is very supportive, but we will ensure my brother takes him out when we are doing the deed, because at 84 years of age it hurts him to hear his love one protest (Mum) when he is gardening outside, while we do the deed. After all the drama Mum puts herself throughout the process, she loves the massaging, pampering, and dressing up at the end. I am of the same thinking as you, that each Saturdays bath will be eventually be more receptive for Mum, as it becomes part of her weekly program.

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