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I've just got to weigh-in here. My MIL is now at the poop digging stage and I will never judge anyone about this issue. I keep her very clean and creamed up etc etc but she poops once or twice a day and immediately gets in there. I trim her nails a lot and clean her hands with a toothbrush but she still keeps her hands way down under the covers. Not just poop either. She puts her hands down deep in her brief and doesn't bring them out. It's "warm" and she likes it down there. Ugh.
Of course she is bored..................she is at the stage where she sits and glares. No conversation to be had and no activity will hold her attention at all. She eats and watches television and poops. I really do keep trying to engage and/or entertain her. But arrrgh. It's not that I don't care. But just saying.............. at this point..........I can't handle more guilt about keeping her happy. Caregiving requires a great deal of energy with no reciprocal anything.
So again, I will never judge.
Poopy hands are awful.
Please take my comments as sincerely from the trenches.
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Another suggestion is to use adult sized cloth diapers. The disposable diapers have gel in them to absorb liquids and if the patient tears them apart the gel can get all over the skin and cause irritation and itching. A possible way to prevent a patient from reaching the diaper is to have them wear an adult bodysuit similar to the ones that a baby might wear. They have snaps at the crotch for easy access diaper changing. A patient with dementia / Alzheimer's can be very determined no matter what you do. I hope my suggestions help you.
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I am absolutely amazed at Lovhor2's answer. Wow! Do you even realize that the person may poop at night when others are asleep and don't realize that they have pooped until the morning? Unless someone is able to hire a nighttime caregiver at home, then it is bound to happen. As for me, I can't stay awake 24 hours a day to watch to see if my MIL took a poop at night. Sorry, but I need sleep too or how the heck else can I take proper care of her? Besides, I seriously doubt that any decent caregiver would purposely let their loved one sit in a poopy diaper if they know it is poopy in the first place. I mean, really.

Gossip,
I realize the date on here is from 2011, so I don't know if you still have the problem mentioned about the poopy messes with your mom, but I have the exact same problem with my MIL who is in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease. She constantly picks at her diaper, even though she gets lotion put on and even though I have tried to give her meds to keep her calm, it isn't working. We haven't restrained her, but we did come up with an idea about oven mitts. We basically sewed some strings to the wrist part and tie them onto her hands when she is especially agitated, not tightly of course. She digs at herself so much that we didn't know what else to do to keep her safe from her own self. The mitts keep her hands covered so she can't pick, but she does usually end up getting them off if she is especially determined too, so who knows what we will end up doing next. I like the idea about sewing the bottoms of the long sleeve shirt up. Maybe I will try that instead.
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Why don't you try to find a Residential Care home in your town. It is a facility licensed for up to 6 Residents in my state of WA and I heard max 10 in Arizona. This facilities has better supervision. The reason your mom is digging is because she feels uncomfortable and she doesn't know what is going on but, she feels the pressure down there. You can also, go to and they have overall for these type of behavior if the NH is allowing that. The bathroom routine is always a saver. Keeping everything in schedule will help the body to change. Why you don't try prune juice instead.
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My mom does this too but she only does it if she is constipated. When she lived with me (after trying out FIVE nursing homes), I gave her coffee each morning with breakfast (no other choices but coffee). She drank 1-2 cups and immediately had to go poop. She has had a constipation problem since she was 3 years old and is now 77....is or WAS dependent on laxatives all of her adult life until I moved her in with me. Simple thing....warm coffee or tea in the am with breakfast got her on a regular poop schedule. Now, I had to put her back into another NH and I told them GIVE HER COFFEE only to drink for breakfast and she will STAY regular. Well........no surprise...they don't do it and yesterday I went to see her, she complained of being wet so, I took her to the restroom and her pamper was SOAKING wet with little, hard poop balls in it. I had her sit on the stool and try to poop..turned my head for one minute and she was digging the hard poop balls out of her butt...Poop all over and UNDER her nails. I told the NH people AGAIN.....She is constipated....GIVE HER COFFEE every morning with breakfast and this will not happen. It's VERY unsanitary...I have to remind her to wash her hands after she uses the bathroom...late stage alzheimer's. I KNOW that when I am not there, she does NOT wash her hands after using the bathroom. I've seen hardened poop under her nails and it's UNSANITARY. There are just no good nursing homes. This one only has 40 residents and they can't help my mom????
UGH!!!
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Wow. I notice, moderator, that my original post is now missing, but you have left the one from lovhor, in which s/he wishes the same poopy fate to the thread originator. Seriously? Do you really not intend to do something about lovhor's evil sentiment, which is highly offensive? Hadn't you people noticed, or do you not care as long as you don't think it refers to you?
People clearly aren't reading all the posts thoroughly, so someone's
sure to take offense again. My point is, folks, we really ought to encourage the moderator to get rid of lovhor's input, & I'm frankly amazed & disappointed that this has not been attended to.
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Thank you, MariesMom.
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Brilliant, the bottle-holding strategy!

As far as playing nice, again, sorry if calling out the meanies was misconstrued. I was unclear. Everybody, settle down. By that logic, however, any mean-spirited post should have been deleted to begin with, so there you are. Just meant to defend the originator of this thread from the notion that she should feel guilty or wrong. I'd feel that way for any of your sakes!
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Now back to my two cents re poop-throwing:
I kept Moms nails cut as short as safely possible to make them easier to clean.
I handed her two large shampoo bottles to hold when she sat on the toilet to keep both her hands occupied (I told her this was her exercise for the day and encouraged her to lift them up and down to keep).
I put a pair of panties over her diaper.
She wore PJ's, not a gown. MUCH easier to keep hr cleaned and changed.
I folded 2 top sheets long-ways and tucked them in COMPLETELY under the mattress to make it more difficult to get to her diaper area. (Hospice told me that even the softest, most benign restraints, such as a bathrobe belt, were never acceptable for use in the home.
And of course I also kept her bottom clean and used ointment with any irritation.
Having said that, there were still poop handling, throwing, smearing and even worse. (I can no longer bring myself to share THAT story, but it was probably what you think.
I thumb tacked old shower curtains on the bathroom wall to make it easier to clean. (I also did this in the bedroom when she went through her food throwing stage).
Hopefully this is a passing phase. I went through this with Mom for about 3 months on and off and then one day she stopped doing it.
Blessings to you.
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Did you read the rest of my posts?
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For sleekit: This is a nice forum where we don't put people down but are supportive of one another. I, for one, am not a fool.
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In the car, I just fasten her hands together using the fastex buckles on the soft restraints & have the lapbelt thru it. Otherwise, I risk her opening the door or taking me out of gear. During daylight hours I don't have to do this, but we all know that it's an unwritten rule that trips to the emergency room shall be necessitated after sundown, right? ;-b. During which time she is absolutely out of her mind.
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I forgot to say that I, too, sing & engage the m-i-l in various ways, but unless you plan on doing that 24/7....
Having been a singer, I have used music, people's first languages (french, German, Italian), & simple jokes & stories to keep their attention.
I work, & my husband can't sit right next to her all the time. & when she's in bed, are we supposed to sleep with her to keep this from happening? Practically speaking, I think the clothing option is still the most effective measure we can take.
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The law was primarily set up for nursing homes, etc so they cannot restrain people but it is more broad reaching - doubtful it would be an issue for something like in the car unless it was very restrictive - but I (just my own thing) do not and would not restrain Mom. But then my work has been social services / social work so that is my perspective.
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I can't believe that all restraints are against the law in Kansas or anywhere, but you would know, wouldn't you?
My suggestion for the hands of dementia patients would be a cover, such as home-made mittens made out of socks with ties and rubberbands so that the pt. cannot scratch herself or dig into her panties. It may work, or it may not.
The idea is from the treatment of children with chicken pox to prevent them from scratching themselves.
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I think everyone who answers does so because they are trying to provide a perspective / idea. I would disagree that anyone who has posted is a "fool." There is no single progression of dementia, so each person is different and each caregiver is different. That simply means with so many unique experiences there can be help in many (not necessarily all) answers.

I do not know about the state you are in, sleekit, but in Kansas restraints are against the law. I simply put a board between Mom and the door to keep her safe. I also find talking to her, singing with her, etc keeps her engaged with less need to find other ways to "entertain" herself.
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I read recently about taking panty hose and cutting off the legs and putting them over the diapers makes it more difficult to get into the diaper and works with some people.
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You don't say where your mom is, is she in a nursing home? Poop should not be allowed to be in he diaper for a long period of time, she should be cleaned immediately. Also diapers are made of plastic and irritating materials that irritate the skin. Scratching/itching is also a sign of a urinary tract infection, (probably from sitting in poopy diapers) try putting some putty in your pants and just try to keep your hands our of YOUR pants. Amazes me that you want to RESTRAIN her rather than have her KEPT CLEAN and tested for a UTI. Nursing homes are noted for leaving these helpless individuals sit in crap!! shame on all of you or any of you who are so stupid not to recognize the possible causes of this behavior and hopefull when you get old someone will treat you the same way!!!!!!!!!
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We found using Eucerin lotion did the trick. Mom used to scratch and leave marks, scratches on herself. Not sure what caused it, but Eucerin has helped. Guessing her skin felt dry but other lotions did not work. Friend who is nurse in nursing home made the suggestion.
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Put on some latex gloves. Wash your patient completely and dry her. Then apply Sarnia or Cortaid to her skin ( all over), and especially in the areas of itching and diaper concerns. The itiching should be controlled. She should NEVER reach insider her diaper to scratch. Always protect yourself first, and then her. Cleanliness is most necessary. Her dementia has nothing to do with the itching. I don't think, anyway..
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The diaper may be itching her maybe you need to ask the doctor is there anything you can use for this. Just because she has dementia doesn't mean she is not in contact with her feelings. You might try putting a sock on her hand...my dad does this at night and i put a sock on his hand because his left hand is paralyzed from his stroke. good luck!
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thank you for all the advice. i thought of differant ways to keep her from getting into her diaper, but i think i figured one way, at least it is helping so far. i took a large long sleeved shirt and sewed the bottom of the sleeve together, it works, the shirt get dirty but it is easier to wash than digging it out of her fingernails.
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All of the above is what I was going to say. Give her something to hold . A wash cloth or towel. Mom holds a pillow case all the time now. But I bet she needs antibotice to stop whats itching. Or is could be just a thing she is going through. But have something to hold will help I think.
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As sole caregiver to both my elderly parents who both have severe dementia, and a mother who does the same thing - putting her hands into her poopy diaper frequentl - I was a bit disappointed at the apparent lack of understanding most responses to your question showed, as far as "getting" the extreme stress of what you are going through.

Most focused solely on "why is your mother scratching:" rather than offering practical solutions to the problem of an adult with POOP ALL OVER THEIR HANDS.

The best solution offered is the special clothing with rear fasteners/openings.

Like you, I considered restraints but they are not a practical solution nor a very pleasant one. But going in to change a diaper or deliver food or medication only to find an enormous, stinky smelly mess all over your parent, their bed, the bedding and clothing is a VERY heart-sinking, stress-level-thru-the-roof feeling, knowing what you are in for clean-up wise.

I am sure you are feeling horribly frustrated and emotionally exhausted.

I myself hold down an outside part-time job, take care of 3 teenagers, 2 dogs & a cat in addition to both parents with late-stage dementia.

So, a half hour diaper change session (including giving food, drinks & meds) turns into a 2 hour nightmare of back-breaking labor, bent over a person who doesn't even remember doing putting their hands into their poopy diaper.

By the time you get done cleaning, disinfecting and disposing of the mess, you feel emotionally and physically drained and beat down.

My parents are both sweet, loveable people, even with their dementia, but this one habit of my mother's makes caring for her extremely time-consuming and stressful.

I am late to work all the time because of these messes. It is also highly unsanitary to the dementia patient, often causing things like eye infections because they rub their eyes with their poop-covered hands! It is a major problem!

I am trying to get across to those who don't understand the scope of the problem but replied anyway, that this is a serious health threat and major inconvenience, a VERY SERIOUS, hard-to-cope-with problem for the caregiver and often results in institutionalization as the caregiver can no longer cope.

In my case, my mother is bed-ridden, essentially paralyzed so she cannot get up and get to a water source to clean up, it all has to be done from her bed where I have to remain stooped over for up to 2 hours, cleaning, sanitizing, soaking her hands, cleaning and trimming poopy fingernails...it feels like it's never going to end each time.

And people wonder why you thought of restraints !!! I challenge anyone to go through this on a daily basis and see how far they'd go to find a solution!

Some things I tried with varying degrees of success:
carefully stapling her diaper shut over the tapes and along the top and leg openings (worked sometimes but she still found a way in if she was determined). Just use baby scissors to cut the diaper open for diaper changes.

Also tried using tape around her waist at the top opening and leg openings. That helps the most but again, given enough time and determination, she has gottten the tape off many times or bypassed it to get her hands down into the poop.

Make sure, if she has diahrrea that you give her appropriate meds for it like Immodium-AD.

The basic reason they try to get into their diaper is discomfort, of course, that and boredom, something to do with their hands. I keep my mother changed frequently, she does this even if her diaper is dry, sometimes a mere 20 minutes after the last change! But the most frequent time is after she's had a bowel movement. I think she thinks she is going to get in there and clean herself up. It is heart breaking to see that they've wiped poop all over themselves and onto their faces, the poor things. As bad as you feel for yourself at having to clean up their mess, you feel bad for them.

I am going to try the clothing solution suggeston - thank you to the person who suggested that! Very good advice. As for those suggesting "anti-itch ointments" etc... it is not usually a matter of true itching as much as their discomfort with wearing an adult diaper in the first place and them wanting to get into it and see what's going on in there.

People with dementia do not think and act normally. My mother was THE most sanitary, hygienic woman yet now she sticks her hands into her own poop. So sad.

I wish you the best of luck in solving your problem with your own mother! Hang in there and reach out for support when you need it!
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You don't say if your Mother is in a Nursing Home. My Mother suffered from Dementia, but passed away peacefully in her sleep, in the year 2009. My Mother didn't do what your Mother is doing, suggest you go to the Chemist/Pharmacy and get some cream that may deter her from scratching. "Good Luck"

Regards, Gossip
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The above advice is really good and I would go with it, also you will find that if there is not a health reason, it maybe something as simple as the fact that she may not have the feeling in her finger tips that she once did. The feeling of the different textures are something that they seem to look for. I had seen where they ( the homes ) would have table with the top of the edges kind of a tiny bumpy textures that really helped. We tried to be sure they had things that had textures they could feel. It is like when we feel something soft like a baby blanket and what do we do but put it to our face and feel it -- it is the same thing , hunting for texture.
There are support groups and workshops that are really helpful ... I went to some of the workshops and yes they are well worth your time. Here is one place you might start to find one in your area : http://www.alz.org/apps/findus.asp

Good luck
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In top of everything she might be constipated. I had a resident who was doing the same thing like your mom and I keep thinking why she will do such a thing like taking her clothes off and reaching with her finger "behind". As soon as I put her to the bathroom she will stop doing the same.
For itching can be UTI which also, can develop behavioral changes as well. Website: clothingsolutions and they sell the overalls for people with such behavior. It is about $35.
Good Luck1
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I agree with many above. We all know how quickly a sanitary napkin can start to irritate and cause us to itch, so imagine having to wear an adult diaper. The very material that is designed to trap in liquids, etc..also causes a lack of airflow, regardless of what the manufacturer states. It gets moist and uncomfortable very quickly. The more frequently they are replaced, the better, and yes, as also some have mentioned there are many new products in the baby aisle (especially the one's for delicate and allergic skin) that can help keep areas protected from irritation. But the absolute key to comfort is frequent changes. The drier the better! I am so sorry, and best of luck to you.
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I KNOW WHAT YOUR GOING THRU!!!!
My mom has "dug" at her rear end for two years. As well as her face arms legs...etc. She(my mom) does this more when she is showing increased anxiety. I refer to moms scratching as a "nervous tick". She also does a panting noise as well!
How is your mothers anxiety? Do you notice a connection of the scratching and her mood? Does she scratch her skin open?
If so, a dermatalogist will check her out and maybe give cream.
Try to avoid any perfume body lotions and get bath soap for sensitive skin. That helped some with moms scratching!
Before I started looking after my mom, she was scratching so bad that she got "Scabies". Which I felt so bad, that I wasn't around to help!!
My mom has scars all over her body from doing this!!
I tried gloves, but she would take them off. Basically, for the last two years I spent removing her "scratchy "hand from her body 100's of times a day!! I make sure her nails are trimmed very short. Helps not only with the scratching but it makes it easier to clean the poop off her fingers.
Only until recently, moms bathroom habits are basically almost non-existant now. I got suggestions about one-piece Pjs and such that button or zip in back. Well that is my miracle now!! It works!!! no more using the house as a public toilet and no more hand down pants!! I wish I would have thought off that a long time ago. I sewed together some 2-piece Pjs and sweatsuits with a slit in back that buttons. For me the one-piece suit thing solved a few problems for me, it might help you as well.
Hope my suggestions help!! GOOD LUCK!!!
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How is it going now, any solutions? You may just want to have a longer top on over the bottoms so she cannot get into the diapers that easily.
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