I cannot get mom to take a shower or bath in a tub, even with my help. She thinks sponge bath is enough?

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Granted, she is in pain a lot but I offer to help her but her pride won't allow me to see her naked. I wash her feet, legs, arms and that is all she will allow me to do. Her back hurts her alot so she is very touchy about me washing her back as well. Her private area cannot possibly be getting the cleansing attention it needs with a disposable wash cloth they sell at Walmart.. Don't know what to do.

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Ashlynne I am 75 and have a hip and knee replacement. I love my bath and have placed several grab bars in the bathroom. In the begining i could not get out of the tub, had to roll over on my belly then get up on hands and knees and stand. Now I can pull myself up on one of the handrails. I did fall backwards into the tub at my daughters house but there were no rails and only my pride was hurt. We have medical alerts as part of our security system and I hang mine beside the tub. I always carry a door key and a whistle on my person as I do fall a lot but fortunately have strong bones. I plan on putting a lock box on the front door like the realtors use with a house key inside so police or EMTs could get in
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I read all of this and know I am not alone. My mother hasn't bathed in months and we have tried everything to make her to no avail. She lies and says she has. There is no arguing with dementia and even if there was a chance of winning, she wouldn't remember the argument 5 minutes later. I don't even know her any more. She wears the same clothes every day until I force her to take them off so I can wash them. I hate myself, because I hate going to see her - same conversation topics every single time for the past 5 years, same complaining, same stubborness and getting worse. Seems when someone ages either their health or mind goes but not both. Mom never gets sick, has no health issues and she is in her late 90's. But she is miserable to be around, has no interests, dementia and deafness and her enjoyment in life is feeling sorry for herself and complaining and sitting on the couch doing nothing (for the past 30 years) I wish I didn't dread the visits, and feel guilty because it feels so futile and never ending.
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Get one of the gentle fabric back washer that has ropes at either end, and let her do her back herself. You don't say if she has dementia, but the disposable flushable cloths will do fine for her genitals, and stop pestering her about being so clean. A sponge bath is fine. If she is not getting into dirt and grime, sponging off will clean some of the bacteria, but you do not want all the bacteria gone. It keeps the elderly healthy by having that bacteria ward off the real bad bacteria - like staph aureus. Let her be private.
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Several people have mentioned the fear of falling. I'm in my early 60s, have a hip replacement - can do anything but run, but probably could depending on what was chasing me - and live alone with my dogs out in the country.

When I bought this house it had a huge jetted tub, and I mean you could have a party in it. I've been in it a few times for a bath but it terrifies me such that I take my cell phone with me in case I can't get out of it again. For now I stand in the monster tub and use a hand held shower. As soon as the weather warms up I'm having the beast removed and replaced with a large shower with a seat, big enough to let me bath the dogs when needed as well. Costly but I plan to live here forever.
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HollyCharbo50 has a good point -- my mom will always bathe if she's about to go to the doctor or someplace like that. I hated to tell her that she stunk -- that her sponge baths weren't working. But, nicely telling her this and reminding her she was going in public, plus giving her these other helpful things and reminding her how to use them -- it took ALL of that to get her to bathe.

Now that she's gotten used to all of it, and a few months have gone by, there are times when I'll urge her to take a bath and suggest that "it's kind of time, I think" and she knows I'm gently hinting that she's getting a bit ripe, these days, she'll bathe even without having to have an outside appointment. Is she trained? I'm not sure, but she's much improved!! ;-)
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My Mom went through the same thing- visiting nurses sent an aide in twice a week to bathe her. Mom st on a shower chair and finally got use to it and let the aide wash her up. The aides can show you some tricks and tips to help get this done. I used creative fibbing to get Mom in the tub- saying someone was coming by and we both had to take baths- she was going to go first. It always worked. Good luck! Its hard to see someone, who once had so much personal pride in their grooming slowly slip away..
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Same problem with my mom. Her issues are that she can't easily get in the tub and is afraid to fall. She can't smell so she didn't realize her sponge baths weren't sufficient. Here's what we did:

1. She only had a tub. When she moved-in with us, she now also has a shower.
2. I taught her how to sit on the edge of the tub and swing her legs in so that she doesn't have to lift her legs up to step in. It sounds trivial, but we practice this every once in awhile -- she forgets how to do this.
3. We bought a transfer bench where she sits on the bench, swings her legs in, and then just showers while sitting, if she's having a really bad day where she can't stand. Or, she does stand if she's feeling up to that.
4. We are going to install a grab bar so that, if she does have a good day and can stand, that she can stand, but has a way to stabilize herself.

My mom can't reach backwards, partly because of poor arm mobility, partly because it makes her dizzy. We have a shower head that has a hose, where you take the shower head off the hook and can shower your body, but it made her dizzy and she didn't really have the strength to hold it. That's another thing to consider.

My mom also likes her privacy. When she wants help, she throws on her robe or hides behind the shower curtain before she calls me and we organize her shower so that I'm not far away and doing something relatively quiet so that I can hear her call. She has learned to keep her robe closeby for just this reason.

I had been looking for bars/transfer benches on-line and asking in this forum, but I'll tell you that the best thing you can do is to find a really good medical supply store and get them to help you for your own situation. I found one staffed by people that seem to have some medical knowledge and can really explain the equipment and it was the fastest way to address it all.
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Just do what you can, and don't give her any more pain than she has. Genital areas can be cleaned with a squirt bottle you can buy from a catalogue (I did). Unless she is digging ditches, don't worry too much about being clean, and do not use the antimicrobial bacteria clean wipes as she needs some "good" bacteria to fight any bad. Relax and take a deep breath. You are trying!
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I too have this problem with my mother and I have talked until I am blue in the face and she will refuse. I have asked her if she is afraid she will fall, is the tub slippery, does she want more grab bars, a chair, is stepping into the tub frightening, is taking off her glasses and not seeing well the issue? I have tried to approach everything and I get nowhere with her.

She was recently hospitalized and came home and we have a home healthcare nurse that stops by twice a week and the woman asked if Mom needed help bathing and Mom yelled out "NOT YET," we whispered to the woman, we can't get her in the bath, she refuses! Mom told her we were a liar that she bathed every day and washed her hair! Ha Ha,her last shower was one week ago and the last time she washed her hair was over a month ago, she will deny it and throw the worst tantrum you can imagine. Tomorrow is our next day to try and haul her into the shower. We have spent $100+ to buy a chair to make her comfortable and she has a hand held shower head and slip resistant mat but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, she will throw another fit and my sister and I will need a tranquilizer by the time its over. The only hope we have is of reminding her that she has a doctor appointment on Monday that she needs to be clean for!

It is so hard to fathom when she was so clean previously that she probably squeaked!
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One thing to keep in mind is that many elderly people have a HUGE fear of slipping, falling, breaking something and ending up in a nursing home because they have seen or heard that this has happened to people they know. This leads to them not wanting to bathe so they can avoid any possibility of this happening to them. Most people want to be as independent as possible for as long as possible. I think it is also mortifying for many of them to accept that type of assistance from their children regardless of the various issues...smells, hygiene, etc. My husband's mother has issues with her knees and we got a wooden (teak) seat that is sturdy and can handle weight and installed a shower device that can be adjusted and can be lifted out to be used as a handheld device. This may work for some; for others, getting a third party in to handle baths may work since it wouldn't be their children seeing their private parts, etc. I read that as we age our sense of smell degrades. I know that this was true with my grandmother and now my mother (in her mid70s) says she has lost a lot of her sense of smell. It is likely possible that they don't realize how bad it may be. For some people, explaining that it is a fact that many lose their sense of smell will make sense; and they may listen when you explain that they need a bath or their clothes, bed linens, etc. need to be washed. Others may be embarrassed that they can't tell and react poorly to the one who delivers the news. Keep in mind that fear drives a lot of behavior in the elderly if it might mean that they might lose what independence (read dignity) they have left. I think this is particularly true of the generation who are now in their 80s and 90s. Also, think about how you would feel if you had to rely on your own children to bathe you. Put yourself in their shoes and then think about ways that you can perhaps get the job done that needs to be done in a way that will make them feel better about the situation. How would you want to be bathed if it were you?
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