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What can I do to get them to bathe?

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SueC, thanks for sharing your insights on bathing in tubs. I think it's difficult for some folks to understand that getting into a tub, even in ages which aren't considered elderly, can be difficult if not dangerous, for both the bather and the helper. It's better to find a safer way to keep clean, and those ways do exist.

I always feel sad for the elder person when I read the frustration and annoyance of people who think that elders need to get into bathtubs and have immersion baths or showers to keep clean.
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Oh Rainmom, you're so right! After 37 years of nursing (pushing, pulling, lifting and transferring patients), I have crumbling discs, a sacroiliac joint injury with nerve radiculopathy to the right hip, osteopenia and chronic minor back pain. There is NO way, even if I were young, would I put a person in a tub! That should be a 2 person job with a transfer board to a shower chair inside the tub. Your back is much too important to have one accident land you in a wheelchair for life. (Happened to a nurse I worked with in 1980). There are other ways of bathing...large 'baby wipe' type moistened cleansing disposable towels. You can even warm them up. A couple of basins of warm water and bar of soap at the bedside or seated in the bathroom, there are even sprays to cleanse the body and waterless shampoo. Keep your back in good condition by not over using it. After the 6th back strain in a year, my parting comment to the 150 lb. patient I took care of last year, who was a total lift and transfer with no assist, was, "You can always get a new caregiver, I can never get a new back." She was a nurse (years ago), so I'm sure she understood. This one has to last till my dying day!
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"Putting them in a tub is much easier" - until you can't get them out of the tub...
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The presumption of this article seems to be that it is always just a choice between a shower or nothing, but in fact, the main problem the elderly have is not with getting into a bath tub but with taking a shower, since they lack the balance to stand up on a wet, soapy, slippery platform. Putting them in a tub is much easier.
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My sister and I are older adults. Our father is an even older adult. We all agree that since we got 'older', we don't like to take baths or showers anymore. None of us knows why. My sister washes up every other day or so and takes a full shower once a week. My father forces himself to take a shower every day. As for me, I have to have an incentive.
Every time we make an excuse to not bathe, it reinforces the behavior. This may sound odd, but we don't get the "aahhhh, it feels so good to be clean" feeling anymore. Again, we don't know why, but chalk it up as a part of aging. So, without that incentive, it feels like a big hassle. Hope this helps.
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My mother lives in assisted living facility with a large walk in shower. She seemed quite nervous about the whole thing so i bought a teak bench to sit down on and found a way for her to reach soap and shampoo without standing. now she seems to enjoy showering a lot more even though she has chosen 2AM as her favorite time. She also suffers from incontinence though which seems to be a poular luchch topic where she lives. Most of the advice residents give each other is not helpful.........at the risk of understatement.And as in many assisted facilities when i got them to break down the bill we are being charged for asisistance with showering although no one but me has ever helped. I have learned however that if I complain about a relly strange monthly charge i'll simply get hit with a much larger fee for a whole service that won;t happen either. i went on Glassdoor website to see what employees complained about at different facilities where they worked and the fake shower help fee seemed to ourage a lot of former employees across the country..
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Mom is terrified of the tub and even more terrified of the stall shower because it has a large step over. She's fallen twice, and since the first fall, is reluctant to go in. It has not been modified, which was a BIG mistake. If it had been modifiied sooner in her decline, she's probably be more inclined to shower now. It's an ordeal to get her to shower and thank goodness her caregivers are patient and persistent. Mom fights and argues. When she actually volunteers to take a shower, we all stop what we are doing immediately and run to the bath. She "knows" she's not to take a shower alone, but we have to keep an eye out all the time. She cannot use that shower unattended. I could not do this alone and was having incredible difficulty before the professional caregivers started and this is the #1 item on their daily "to do" list.
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kthln3, I hope you have that in a "living will" Your will wouldn't be read and valid until you die, and it will be too late for a nursing home then! Your healthcare directive is the appropriate place for this information.
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Just read these posts, as I have a similar problem with my 95 year old father who has not bathed since May 2013. Won't shave either, won't use an electric razor.

He looks horrendous but surprisingly to us, doesn't smell.

I have simply decided to give up and forget about it. It's horrible enough for me being the main caregiver that I am stuck in the house with him, have given up 99.9% of my friends, social activities and relish the time I get to leave to go to work at my 5-hour, 4-days/week job. That, as well as brief trips to the library and grocery shopping are what I look forward to.

It will be 3 years at the end of March that I've been a live-in caregiver. Yes, I know there are a lot more of you out there that have done this for way longer, with probably more difficult elderly people. I'm not looking for sympathy.

This is the absolute hardest thing I have ever done. I pray every day that I die without inflicting this horrid situation on my daughter. I have put in my will that she is at liberty to place me in a NH and forget about me the moment I begin to slip into dementia.
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I have specific gowns for bath time for my mother so she doesn't have to stay uncovered. when we put the bath gown on her she knows its bath time and I give her a wash cloth with soap on it so she can participate. I do most of it but she still feels that she is washing herself. while she is washing her legs I use a washcloth for shampoo and clean her hair so she doesn't notice as much and I use a small cup to pour water on the back of her head and rinse the front with the wash cloth as good as I can so she will be clean.
My mother is incontinent but if I change her pull up while she is using the potty it works better for me.
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In order to wash my MIL's hair, I just walk over to her chair and squeeze some shampoo on her head and massage it in with a wet wash cloth. Then I say, oh my we need to get over to the sink to get this shampoo out of your hair. So far it works. Bath is a bigger deal. She will NOT go in shower so I scrub her with a basin and washrags.
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The home nurse used to do a good job in convincing my dementia grandpa to bathe but unfortunately, he was discharged from her care because she already has alot of patients on her list. I have a hard time getting him to bathe. I have tried saying "doctor's appointments, visitors coming, party, etc." He said that he already took a bath "this morning" being aggressive towards him and firm he will only push you away or ignore you or get defensive and tell you to go home and that he is not an "invalid". Any tips is appreciated.
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MsDaizy, my mom is also reluctant to shower because of a fear of falling. Since she has been in rehab and had someone to help her out with getting in and out of the shower, she is showering regularly!
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Mom's been getting more and more difficult with showers...her problems seems to be the fear of falling. The bath aide would come in 2x a week to help her...but lately its been a 2 person job. She's 91 with LB dementia...and has declined this last month. I am sure it will be bed baths soon. She's been scared to even transfer from chair to bed and likewise.
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No-one in assisted living and eventually memory care would bathe my father-in-law. He always refused. When I visited, I heated up the bathroom and told him that his bathroom was nice and warm and was ready for a shower. He walked with me, I helped him into the shower and onto the shower bench, then handed him the handheld showering device to check the temp.. I kept the water pressure on low flow/rain shower. The elderly have very sensitive skin and may feel pressure and/or cold differently than we younger folk do. I also purchased a very soft sponge for his skin. He did allow a couple of nurses to bathe him after that but the turnover is so high where he is that I am preparing to bring him to my house after some fairly large adjustments to my home and yard are made. Fortunately he is ambulatory and physically healthy. There is nothing wrong with a good sponge bath either!
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My mom did not take showers when living on her own before coming to live with me. I read a book that really helped me to understand many things about dementia in the elderly. One thing the book said was that as the dementia progresses the elder person can not remember all the "steps" necessary to take a shower, so it's just too confusing and they just don't do it anymore. Since living with me, I give my mom a shower just twice a week. She really doesn't exert herself enough to require one more often. She has her hair done at the hair dressers once a week so I don't do her hair. I do have a heater in the bathroom and that definitely helps as she gets cold easily. She won't tell me she wants to take a shower but thankfully she doesn't fight me on it as of yet and she does seem to enjoy it once she gets in there. She enjoys the massage effect of being towel dried and I always use some Avon Skin so Soft original oil sprayed all over her before getting out of the shower-it really helps with dry skin but you do have to be careful that they don't slip or slide out of the shower! 8) Hey, we have to keep our sense of humor here! I am fortunate in that my mom is really pretty easy going compared to some parents I read about here and I am grateful for that. She has her moments, but for the most part we get along and mostly I just feel sorry for her and all that she has lost along the way, and the mom I have lost along the way.
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My grandma is wheelchair bound, I give her a bath 3 times a week. She is morbidly obese and has greasy hair. Plus I have noticed that she is more inclined to keep her hand in her diaper even though I change her every two hours. Yes, she cusses at me and tells me I am stupid but I wheel her in that shower anyway. Yesterday, I told her that I felt ashamed for taking up for her at the nursing home as they never bathed her and spoke with the DON several times. I KNOW why they didn't bath her, if I did not care about her hygiene she would sit in filth and complain that no one cared enough to give her a bath! So, no I do not give her an option, she would also never have a bowel movement either if I did not remove impactions and give enemas, it may sound mean but for their well being. You have to decide.
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Having a terrible time with our 89 year old Dad....at times he has bowel accidents, makes a terrible mess, and then will not use help to clean up, including a shower.....help...
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This is not uncommon. Here are a few suggestions:
-Do a "weekly bath" - everyday washing one part of her body using washcloths. For example, Monday wash her arms, armpits and back, Tuesday, feet and legs. Ask her to take that body part out of her clothes one at a time to wash, dry and then switch. It takes longer but they be more open to this. Sometimes you could time it during a trip to the washroom and use that as an excuse to clean the genitals.
-Set up a bath schedule and use a calendar. Use incentives to get her to bathe, such as telling her she has to bathe before her favorite TV show comes on or she'll get her favorite dessert. Once or twice a week is sufficient for seniors if they are not incontinent.
-Temperature - Turn up the heat to keep the bathrooms warm. Seniors are often cold when we are wearing short sleeves. If there is tile in the bathroom, cover them with a plush non-slip bath rug (watch her for falls). If you have an overhead heater, turn that on. Wear a t-shirt so you're not overheated!
-Make it like a spa - scented soaps/lotions, heated towels (they make heated towel bars/containers or pluck them from the dryer) and a warm fuzzy bathrobe.
-Make sure the bathroom is safe - use bath chairs, non-slip mats/appliques, grab bars. If they don't feel safe, they will not bathe.
-Install a hand-held shower. Some people don't like the water spray in the face as often happens when sitting in a shower chair. This also allows the warm water to pour over them as they wash and they feel like a greater sense of control.
-Use powders, body sprays, etc to help cover the body odor when you just can't get them to bathe.
-If their depression/anxiety is significantly impairing their ability to care for themselves, speak with a doctor to see if an anti-anxiety can be prescribed and taken before the shower. **Always follow a doctor's advice**

And lastly, many home care agencies offer a bathing service so that you don't have to do the "dirty work". Hire them and then go out for a cup of coffee to de-stress. If you can't hire someone, ask relatives to step up for this onerous task.
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Last time I tried to get my mom into the shower I almost broke my own back. So.....no more showers. she does nothing to work up a sweat so a sponge bath is good enough. Just fil up the bathroom floor with towels, haver her stand there and go over her like a car wash. Over in 5minutes - thats all you need. I just bought a hair washing hose and a tray so I can wash her hair separately. What is it with these old people and water though...you would think they were going to drown when the get some water on their face. I give my mother Purel to wash her hands during the day. It is all about ADAPTATION.
Paul
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My relative was afraid to get into the bath tub for fear of falling. There is no working shower. She was afraid to get into the tub even with a transfer chair and her caregiver using a hand-held shower. So, every other day, the caregiver gives her a sponge bath, either while sitting on the toilet, or while sitting on her bed. The caregiver also cleans the bathroom, so it is clean enough to do that. She now looks forward to her showers, with pampering, powder and lotion.
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my mom was the same always cold all the time hse nvever wanted to take shawers or baths she use totak esponge baths twice a day she stopped i had to to get help from friends to get her to take ashwer she fought me all the the imte i couldnt get a aide to come help me i was her sole care taker mom is n a nursing home her alzheimers got worce its been a month she s been a home . she s92 yrs old,
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When my Grandmother was under my care, I just had to remain very calm. The elderly get cold very fast so a very efficient space heater was placed in the bathroom for at least a half an hour before. Once she was in the tub because she did not like showers, I couldn;t get her out because it was so relaxing. I used many many warm towels from the dryer so of course my children would run for me. It was worth all of the work.
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Milach`s suggestions were great,I had a bit of a problem with my Mom,showering,she is 91 and I kept telling her she would feel more relaxed,that it is so important to keep her skin clean because it is very thin,the Dr. appmt. worked well,didn`t think about the ice cream,(that would have worked from the get go)but I also found out she didn`t want me to see her undressed,that she was afraid of falling,but we worked it out and now she looks foward to bathing.
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Some people, you cannot ask them "Do you want to take a shower?", you will get a no response every time. But you can give them a choice so they do have some sort of control in the matter..... "You need to have a shower today. Would you like to take a shower right now, or would you like to wait until after breakfast?".

Sometimes they need advance notice so they can get used to the idea, let them know when they get up in the morning "You're going to have a shower after breakfast, which clothes would you like me to take out for you to wear after your shower?" Then about 10-15 minutes before shower time, tell them you are going to get the water going and the bathroom warmed up so the water and the bathroom will be nice and warm and ready for them.

Another thing that works is to give them a reason why they need to take a shower and get cleaned up. "You have a doctor's appointment after lunch today", or "A friend is coming over later on to visit, so we need to get you washed up". If none of those are really the case, if the person you are caring for like to go for rides, or even go have a burger at McDonald's...you can use an outing as an incentive for them to want to get washed up. "I was thinking after your shower, we can take a ride downtown and stop at DQ for an ice cream".

Then other people, you just need to corner them while they are in the bathroom using the toilet "OK, while you're in here let's get in a quick shower", then go ahead and get the shower and bathroom ready while they're using the toilet.
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Last time this topic came up most people were regarding a disinclination to shower in the elderly as evidence of dementia.

That got me thinking.

Homo sapiens have been around for something like 400,000 years. Obviously 99.9% of our history was spent wtitout the option to take a warm sudsy shower. Therefore, any instincts we have in this regard could not possibly be in support of a daily bath or shower.

Even in the modern world, think about the Inuit or desert nomads.

So in reality, the reluctant elder is just jettisoning our acquired artificial cultural conditioning and getting in touch with his "true" self. That is far from dementia.

As far as body odor goes, the chances are great that as a matter of necessity most of us developed a huge tolerance of our own smells. Again, not dementia by a long shot.

Besides those factors, if your life is all about being waited on by your caregiver, there isn't even much utility in comforming to societal norms. Maybe we need housebound-elderly norms instead.
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