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How do you get an elderly parent to take a bath or shower, when they refuse to do so? Do you have any ideas or suggestions that would help me? My brother and I are at our wits end with this problem. Thank you for any help you may have.

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Garden Artist, thank you for your input. I've gotten alot of great info today. My brother passed away from cancer 14 years ago and I have no other siblings. My mom and I have always had an odd relationship and I can't communicate with her the way my brother could. If I suggest anything she takes it as criticism. She's 88 and I believe she's showing early signs of Alzheimer's. We have a family history of it and my sister in law was recently here and brought it to my attention. I had my suspicions but didn't share them prior to her visit. I wanted her to judge for herself. So, I'm dealing with several issues at once. I'm going to try to get some outside help and go from there. I've learned so much from the comments today. Thank you
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Dianne, this topic has been raised periodically on this forum. There have been good answers to it as well. Ones which suggest refocusing on the bathing process to make it a pleasurable experience are very helpful.

They could involve use of washcloths for cleaning or no rinse products. They can include playing pleasurable music, giving a manicure before or after, providing a treat (such as ice cream) afterward.

The goal is to turn an unpleasant and sometimes nagging experience into a desirable one, permitting more bonding between caregiver and the one being cared for.

Older people don't necessarily enjoy undressing, getting cold, having to worry about getting in and out of a tub (even with shower/bath chairs to provide stability and safety), and being told that they have unpleasant odors.

Like many caregiving chores, folks here have learned to be creative and find ways to turn what could be frictional experiences into more positive ones. I think most of us have travelled this path at one time or another. It's a challenge many of us face; the trick is in finding the right route to a successful solution.
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I'm so glad I found this information on getting parents to bathe. My mom used to take baths and now she won't. Her power went out the other night and she was at my house yesterday and the smell was awful. I had the AC on and the ceiling fan on high. The ceiling fan just circulated the smell. When I make a suggestion to her she says I'm controlling. I'm so upset and at my wits end. I have heart problems and the stress from this has sent my bp raging. I'm going to try to convince her she needs to bathe and go get whatever she suggests she might need to give her more comfort in doing it.
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Cap in summer, you just sit her in the yard and put the irrigation system on manual. I have often suggested spilling a large drink across the table, then apologizing profusely while you shuffle her into the bathroom and whoops you misdirect the shower head, constantly talking, blaming yourself and once she is sufficiently wet she will want clothes off and whoops you soak the hair and just keep going till its all done.
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you have known all along that the answer is " firehose " .
everybody here downplays the facts but na , the end solution is " firehose " .
people p!ss on your back and try to tell you its raining .
i apologise for them ..
they mean well but theyre gutless ..
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I am a home companion to an 88 year old lady with dementia and who has not bathed in five months. She stinks real bad. I once was able to give her a shower and she was crying and saying "you will never make me bath again!" I was gentle with her when I gave her a bath. She was probably humiliated that a stranger saw her naked and gave her a bath. Now, no matter how I asked her to bathe, she would say, "Are you kidding?" Every time I take my baths, I show myself to her wrapped in towel saying, "I'm done, you next, okay? I feel so fresh. So should you, too." She would just smile and ward me away. I said, "You should bathe, you already stink and don't smell good." She went ballistics and asked, "Who said that I stink?" I said it's me who said that. She was so upset that she sprayed herself with so much perfume that it gave me a migraine. A fellow caregiver told me to douse her with water so she would bathe, but I was not up to that idea because the old lady might cite elderly abuse. She is sometimes sharp and mentally intact, but at times incoherent and sundowning. For other matters, I have no trouble with her like giving her medications which she takes from no one else except from me or insisting taking the walker with us to trips outside the house. I have no other issues with her, just bathing. Can anyone please tell me what I am supposed to do? I'm distressed.

Maddie
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Buy the no rinse bath cloths you heat in the microwave and tell her to do it herself maybe. I think everything comes with lots of soft convincing talks eventually. Say you smell something and its not you, tell her anything, just get it done. I smelled my Mom in walmart many years ago and I nearly died. Once we got home I asked her to shower with me there, just in case she fell. She showered, I went in a little at a time pretending I needed to get something, and soon she was ok with it. Its so hard and they are so stubborn, good luck.
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What if the parent refuses the caregiver to bathe her?
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Kirissy call your local Senior Services and have them get her admitted for a psych evaluation. If its as bad as it sounds they will have several diagnoses and also copious notes as to her not being capable of ADL's, therefore unfit to be released home to care for herself. Whatever you do will require you to insist you cannot care for her, then she will become the state's problem not yours.
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Forgot to mention I have small children that visit and she won't stop putting her hands on them or in food her nails are very long and won't let me cut them. Her toes were same way now podiatrist takes care of those. She suffers from depression and won't leave the house unless made to go to doctor . Then she goes out looking like a bag lady. She has a closet full of clothes but weres the oldest ones she can find and shoes are a nightmare I have spent hundreds on shoes she won't wear she wears socks 24 7 please anybody anybody what do I do???????
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My mother hasn't bathed in years now she lives with me and I am disabled and can hardly keep my self straight . She won't even wash her hands and has feces under her nails a sore on her foot that won't heal and drops skin like a lizard through out the entire house. Her doctors are frustrated with her and home health won't even come out because she is so difficult to deal with. My youngest sibling and I have split the care and he has had it with her as have i. She suffers from osteo so bad her spine is twisted and has had some sort of mental deal ever since I can rember. I'm thinking of calling local social services because she really needs a nursing home at this point. Any suggestions on how to discuss this with her. Believe it or not, I don't want to hurt her feelings but I can't live this way
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I love the squirt bottle idea. Bathing is so intimate that just about anyone would be embarrassed. My sister broke both wrists a few years ago and I would have loved such an option. We were both uncomfortable.
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Olma, you should send that idea to Proctor and Gamble! If nothing else, they'll send you coupons!
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My mother, same story.I finally told her she stunk.I told her truthfully other people notice it.I know it hurt her feelings but I pointed out that I knew she cared and wanted to help.
She was / is afraid of falling.In the beginning we began slowly, she consented to sponge baths. Older people do not sweat as younger people so arms,face, neck, hair, feet is a way to begin without too getting to much of an argument.
Fresh clothing, under protective garment, and combed hair is a comfort many have forgotten!
I let her do the private parts if she's having a good day.As she gets embarrassed otherwise I talk about the weather etc while taking care of business. It eases the tension.
I also use plastic squirt bottles for those areas; one with soapy warm water and one with rinse water.It makes it less personal and often she can manage herself with a little supervision or help.
She likes television. I take advantage of that....Youth regenerating soap, I suggest we both try it and see if it works. Stupid but the it works and makes her laugh.
Commercials about protective underwear.Let's try it! One in the morning, one in the afternoon etc.Thank god she can't remember or notice it's always the same brand, different color.
The additional perk was that by wearing them myself in an effort to encourage her I found some brands more comfy than others, some less obvious in pants and that's makes her more agreeable to changing.
One prob with protective pants is that the person can't always tell they are wet due to the material so they argue the panties are clean and do not need changing.Often they can't smell it even though you can. I can offer no suggestion on this other than I wish these companies would adopt training pants for toddlers to seniors.The ones that change color when wet.
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No I'm not going with the carpenter's idea (actually saw it in assited living center, it was older building with older fixtures thusly modified). The ads on tv are enticing. Both my parents get relief from arthritis by soaking, and or a sauna.
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samara, don't listen to this carpenter. I have repaired a lot of bathtubs and this sounds like a very bad idea. message me if you want more info There's a reason those tubs are expensive. Hate to see you or you folks lose money.
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Lots of good ideas here, thanks for writing them all. I am considering the walk-in bath tub I see advertised on TV. My folks have a regular tub, which is risky to climb over the "hump" even with the grab bars. A carpenter said he could cut thru the tub to within 3" of the floor, sand it down, and apply some enamel. But then it couldn't be used as a tub.
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a calendar or white board seem like a good idea. My mom who lives in a small apartment under sis's house don't agree. Don't want to poke holes in the walls! At least I can put a calendar on the bathroom door.
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My 92 yr old Mom hates it but will take a bath. I just want to make her comfortable, not embarrassed. I am 62, her favorite daughter lol. How do I help a very modest woman expose herself for grooming purposes?
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my mother in law lives with us she refuses to shower or even see a doctor in years. she is combatitive and crazy basically how can we force her to deal with her issues? theres no getting threw to her. should we call elder protection services on her? she wont listen to us and you can smell her coming a mile away. there is also years of some kind of mental issues .please any advice would be great.
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Shaliz, I would not get involved with helping with this. Instead let the agency you work for know she is needing assistance with this. By trying to help with this you could be opening up a huge mess that you would be in the middle of. Bless you for wanting to help but there are other solutions and resources that need to be utilized.
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A person on my meals on wheels route is wanting help to bathe and cannot afford to hire someone to do this. She is too heavy to lift and I am not sure what to do to help her. She told me that there is such a thing as a lifter that can be installed in the bathroom. Can this be done through Medicare?
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Serendipity,
What in his younger days would have made him want to shower? A military inspection, a date with a pretty girl, a job interview? Find a way to use something that he had been familiar with earlier in his life. What works for my mom is going to church or the hairdresser the next day.
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Hopefully someone might respond but even if they don't there are a lot of helpful comments on here I'm really glad I found this site....☺️
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I'm going crazy I am alone with an aging dementia patient on a regular basis taking care of him and the rest of the family doesn't seem too concerned when it mention how he needs to bathe and also to see a dr get a haircut, so on and so forth. This man is the father of my fiancé, so I go to my fiancé and explain my concerns ans he acknowledges them but never actually does anything. The only way I got him to go to the dr last time was to call 911, which was because he was acting very strangly and I was really concerned he was doing things that were unsafe. What to do? I can't get him to do anything around bathing or hair cutting or toe nail clipping I bought him everything he needs and offered to help have tub safely equipment and a chair and everything just want him to be happy and we'll cared for but he practically has a tantrum when I mention a shower.....any advice? He also needs to see a dr......
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My dad is really getting the best of us. He refuses to get up and move as well as take a shower or bathe. If you tell him he is starting to smell he gets very offended and becomes more stubborn. He has been in the hospital for a few days now and keeps telling the staff that he has taken a bath when in actuality he hasn't done a thing. He has started wearing depends but I am not sure that this is a good idea. When we talk to him it is like talking to a brick wall. We are so frustrated. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Desperate at this point.
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Those are terrific ideas! I didn't think about the towel on the shower chair. I think the cold is a big hinderance.
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Wow. I had no idea the problem I was having with my dad was so common. I am new at caregiving. I'm so glad I found this site. I don't feel so "alone".
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I share everyone's difficulty! My mother sometimes is reluctant to bathe--she can be too tired, not feeling well, or in pain from her sciatica. Sometimes she's in a mood where she's afraid of falling when using the shower bench to get in and out. I find that the best things is to discuss with her how important it is for her health that she shower. Sometimes we switch her schedule because her complaints (i.e. not feeling well) are valid, but in general my rule is that the NY state-mandated minimum is 2 showers/week, so that's what she must have, but we aim for 3/week. Since she doesn't have major incontinence issues, that's fine. In her case, though, some of her skin is prone to yeast infections. If your patient smells, have yourself or their doctor check their skin for a yeast rash. If left untreated they can smell horrible and they tend to stick around a _long_ time so treatment is not a limited-time thing. So showers and putting on anti-fungal powder help fight the infection and keep a person clean and healthy and that's the most important thing!
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All are such great ideas, and I wish one would work on Mom. She needs antidepressants in the worst way, but until such time as she is in assisted living, she can't be trusted to take any medication, her dementia and stubborness is that bad. She has a special knack for immediately getting diarrhea whenever she is upset, or an anxiety attack.
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