How can I encourage my Mom with Alzheimer's to brush her teeth?

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She can brush them herself. I have gotten children's toothpaste and brush with her, but she walks around with the brush and tries to get my attention off of it or tries to set it down somewhere. She sometimes gets angry and hands it back to me.

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Scottdeny that was a pretty insensitive remark. you may have been able to becoem an excellent caregiver but everyone is different in what they can achieve. male Caregivers are a rare species and if you are able to continue to the end you are a very special and unique person. It is the responsible thing for any one who is not able to follow your example to pass on the very important care of their loved one to professionals. No shame or failure involved jsut plain common sense and concern for the loved one.
I bought my mum an electric toothbrush which she had never used before.
I put the toothpaste on it then get her to hold it and as she puts it to her mouth I quickly turn it on and she just moves it around her teeth. The movement encourages her and I'm sure does a way better job than if using a manual toothbrush.
The brush makes a sound after 2 mins or so and she has miraculously learnt that it means she's finished.
I definitely have to prompt her to brush and set it all up, but at least she ( or the toothbrush) is brushing her teeth and not me!
I also take her to the dentist every 6 months where they will scrape her teeth for tarter although this is definitely becoming more difficult as the noise and scraping makes her tense up and shut her jaw!

Scottdenny - your comment was very rude and uncalled for. None of us can judge another's ability to care for a loved one. Part of being a care giver is taking care of one's self. For a variety of reasons not all of us are able to care for a loved one without additional help. This is meant to be a forum for encouragement and support as we travel a very difficult road.
My mom won't brush her teeth on her own either. When she was in assisted living I knew she wasn't, and bathing was an issue too.
So I moved her in with me. I take her to adult day care Mon - Fri. (a Godsend)
Anyway, after breakfast each day I take her to the bathroom and we brush her teeth.
If I don't do this It won't get done. Day care baths her 2X a week by the way.
Sadly getting to point where I will have to put her in NH for her own safety.
Scottdeny - I echo the response of Veronical91 and others. This is a forum to help and encourage people. When people are asking for help, they are not asking for you to step in and insult them. I have asked AgingCare to review your post to determine if it steps outside their terms and policies and to consider pulling it (and you) from our forum.
See if she will use a water pik/flosser, my husband has less problems using it than the toothbrush (I have to help with both). On low setting it works great to rinse out the excess food.
I work as a caregiver and specialize in people with Alzheimers and dementia. One trick I use to get a client to brush, rinse, and floss is by bringing my own toothbrush and mouthwash and floss and we do it together, I am demonstrating how as well as encouraging and explaing and helping as needed. I can take a few tries to figure out the leval of assistance needed but usually they can cooperate and this helps increase as much independence as possible. When the leval changes then I just assist more but they are used to the routine and its usually easy to do for both of you.
I'd highly recommend searching YouTube for videos from an educator named Teepa Snow. I'm not sure in which video (perhaps the one about bathing?), but she talks about a hand-over-hand technique which I found worked really well when I was a professional caregiver. I know for me, if someone came at my mouth with a foreign object, it would freak me out and I'd refuse to participate. However, if the toothbrush was in my hand and someone was guiding it to my mouth, I might have a better chance of my motor memory kicking in and my arm/mouth remembering what to do. I found that if I used hand-over-hand to get the person started, they'd either just go ahead with brushing, or I could then mime brushing my own teeth or provide verbal reminders like, "make sure to get this (pointing to the left) side." Of course, like anything with dementia, no trick works for everyone, which is why forums like this are so important--so you can get some ideas to find out what will work for you and your care receiver. Best of luck to you!
Drinking water helps when all else fails. Better to get your teeth flushed with water than a sugary drink, etc. I know of one kids song and I am sure there are more about brushing teeth that makes it kind of fun...I think the song is by Raffi, who is enjoyable for both adults and children to listen to.
other fun songs to listen to or caregiver can sing are:
The auditory nerve goes to so many parts of the brain so rhythmic music is very good for all of us. If your mom has some favorite music maybe you can pick out a two minute version to listen to while brushing teeth.
There are probably lots more. I believe in making things fun for all. The vibrating toothbrush is a great idea. Many people love this sensory input. Many kids I worked with (before my diagnosis of FTD) found teeth brushing to be aversive. By playful attitudes and slowly increasing the amount of time one is asked to brush along with vibrating toothbrushes, modeling, and music, many children came to enjoy it. Best of luck! Rosie (former pediatric occupational therapist)
Try to get a toothpaste she likes

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