This is for the grandmother who just had a knee replacement. It's kind of a long story about her lack of bathing. She got really sick about 2 or 3 years ago and it damaged her kidneys. When she was in the hospital and rehab center to get her strength back, she refused to bathe. We had said that there are nurses that would help her bathe and giver her tips to stay safe in the bathroom when she got home. But she expected my mom and I to help her bathe but I was really uncomfortable with that and refused to do it. My mother would redirect her to the nurses helping her and said it was up to her to either go shower alone or have the nurses help. Needless to say for almost a month, she refused to bathe. After that, she has been bathing maybe once a month and dousing herself in perfume to try and make us think that she bathed. We can smell BO under all that perfume and see the oily, matted hair. After the knee replacement and the last massive blow up, we find out from the visiting nurse that makes sure that she is doing her physical therapy, that she made some changes to her bathroom but still refuses to bathe. All she has been talking about is either getting a cab to the mall to get her perfume or calling me to order a few bottles and ship it to her front door. She doesn't go anywhere except to the doctor's office to to the grocery store. I don't know if the doctor cleared her to drive or not. But I am not buying her bottles of perfume for Christmas.
I was thinking for Christmas is getting her 2 bottles of Euphoria (her favorite perfume) bath soap and maybe one bottle of the body lotion. I'm hoping that it will encourage her to bathe on a regular basis. Has anyone done the whole bathing issue this way?
DO CALL THE POLICE. Don't hesitate. Don't second guess. Tell them to have her taken to the ER for observation. DO NOT GET HER at discharge. This is a golden opportunity so don't blow it. Tell the hospital she lives alone and nobody is there to care for her. Nobody will pick her up. They will find a placement. Don't expect much in the way of a dementia exam in the ER. It's not their specialty. Getting her to a facility where there are geriatricians & dementia doctors to examine her is most imperative. Yes, she will be mad. Mad happens.
My mother was mentally ill and had dementia. Not a nice cocktail. It is volatile on a good day. I used to leave my purse, coat, etc in the trunk of my car in case I had to make a fast getaway from her. And I did more than once.
Mom was a hoarder of clothes, dry goods, and canned goods. When I moved her from her home into the senior apartment, it was almost TV-worthy. Everything in the fridge & freezer was rotten and stinking to high heaven, but mom had giant tantrums insisting it was still good. Her pee-soaked clothes had been sitting in piles in her bedroom for who knows how long. Other food had rotted and run down the walls of the cabinets and storage.
Mom eventually was seen by a geriatric psych, who put her on Seroquel, then Risperidone, and it took the teeth out of her bite. He also took her off Ativan and 17 other medications she had been taking randomly. Even now, if she won't take her Risperidone in the morning, she is hospice hell-on-wheels.
Good luck on this. Don't ignore your gut. That isn't how competent people live or think, so do whatever is necessary to get grandma examined by a neurologist and a geriatrician.
Part of dementia is losing the sense of smell. They literally can't smell their own BO, smoke, rotten food, and that is a major safety problem. Especially living alone.
You don't have to force. You & mom have to take steps. You have to do the responsible thing even if she doesn't like it. This means you may have to learn to communicate & relate to her very differently than ever before. You may have to be more strong willed than her. It's not to her detriment, it's for her well being. This is an aspect in early caregiving that many, many people are uncomfortable with.
My mom moldered away in her house alone for 15 more years than she should have because nobody wanted to step in and deal with it incrementally. She would scream & holler "DON'T PUSH ME!!!" so nobody did. I got fed up and told her that she was acting like a spoiled brat and that today was the day I put my foot up her butt to push her. You need ___, and it's happening today. The end. Not my finest moment, but it was a pivotal one. I finally embraced my role. Now I know where my teens got their backtalking ability from!
It was a journey to learn how to get her to do anything. How much to say or not say, when to announce in advance or not. It was not easy & I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but nothing fatal. We learn by doing.
My mom was only urine incontinent at the time and totally out of touch with what she should be doing about it. Waiting for our loved ones to figure it out only leads to worse and faster decline. They will never figure it out. Mom kept a UTI because she would not change. She couldn't smell or feel the wetness and believed she was wasting them if she changed. Then she had an accident out in the store, and went totally the other way and would wear many pads and briefs at one time. My aunt mentioned to mom that she smelled and should use a different pad, and I had to sit through a 20 minute rant on the phone over it. Annoying, but not the end of the world.
They will get unmad as fast as they get mad, and there are far worse things than grandmom being mad over a bath. Do everything you can so when the day comes you explain to a social worker from APS what you've tried, you will have no worries.
If it is dementia, it's not likely she will agree and volunteer to get help. Help is often met with resistance and waiting for her to get better judgment, reconsider or get motivated, isn't likely to happen. I hope it doesn't take the crisis, you mentioned, but sometimes that is the case.
I think I might try to get the doctor on board with support though. If the doctor knew of the bathing issue and her incontinence issues, he may be able to help. Maybe he could prescribe it and accept a bathe aid more willingly. In light of these symptoms, I would be too alarmed to leave her alone too.
Do you or other family members have Durable POA and Healthcare POA? I'd try to confirm that.
Her lack of cleanliness is not the result of a deficiency of Euphoria soap.
She MIGHT do better with a bath aide. My mother fought all of us tooth and nails. So the first week she was in the nursing home I was amazed when the aide came in and said, "It is time now for your shower. Let's pick out some clean clothes to bring with us," my mother did not protest at all. As far as I know, she has never objected to the staff giving her a shower. Maybe if you had someone come in on Tuesday mornings to matter-of-factly help Grandma shower she would accept that. (Or maybe not, of course.)
Unless she is incontinent, once a week ought to do it with a shower or bath, if she is reasonably compliant with good hygiene the rest of the week.
"Don't want to" is code for "I physically can't and am scared to try." No bribe, logic, or reasoning is going to change that.
Someone in her life has to care enough to intervene and setup an in-home service OR have her put in a place where she will be safe from her own bad decisions. What grandma wants is not really a defining factor anymore. It's about what will keep her safe and healthy. Being dirty is not healthy.
Please be sure she is not driving. Her executive decision making is not good, and if she cannot coordinate in and out of a tub, she can't control a vehicle either.
I agree with FF, bribes aren't the answer. Baby wipes may help. There are various no rinse shampoos too that can help keep her hair nice between regular baths. Perhaps hiring a bath aide to come in weekly?
There is also claustrophobia, the fear of being in small places. Not much one can do about that. If there are glass doors, maybe removing them and replace with a shower curtain might help, but no guarantee.
For inbetween bathes, use baby wipes that she can use to "wash", find one that has a nice smell. And good luck.