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I try to get my mother to take a shower every 3 days. I just say the word shower and she gets extremely upset ,starts to shake because she is so mad. i have tried many different ways to get her to take one but none of them really work, i will turn the shower on and say in a calm voice how about we take a shower before we go out, i will do it before she goes to bed thinking it will calm her, have tried in the morning lets have one before you eat breakfast. if she does have one i even praise her . i have even told her how nice she looks and smells nice and clean, thinking that might work . nope none of these things work i have even let her go for several weeks without taking one, but when you say shower she bristles. i am at my wits end!! please help!!!!

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My mother used to have a bath last thing at night, no matter how late, every night. It's been her habit for as long as I can remember, and I remember that sometimes it drove my dad up the wall - he used to grumble about her "porpoising" keeping him awake! And then, after she and I moved together to our new house five years ago, it tailed off until she had just stopped. She never got unhygienic, strip washes at the sink, soap and talc all over the place, same face cream routines at her dressing table, but the nightly bath to help a good night's sleep came to a halt.

When I started suggesting she might enjoy a bath, she said yes - but it was always too late, too early, she was too busy (???), she wanted to finish her cup of tea, her programme was about to start…

I think the truth could have been one or a combination of several things, including that she slipped and banged her ribs on the edge of her bath; she had a miserable time 3 years ago when (not her fault) she broke her collarbone in the shower of a hotel room; she's become much more badly affected by her CHF and is very easily fatigued; she seems to feel the cold much more than she used to. I have also wondered in the past whether there was some sort of intimate problem going on that made being immersed in very warm water painful, but that she was too embarrassed to seek help with. She clammed up completely; so the next time we saw a female doctor about something else, I told the doctor what I was worried about and left the room for them to discuss it in private. Not very fair on the doctor (she looked a bit startled), but at least my mother did get checked out properly.

Gradually we worked on it, and now we've got to the point where we use a bath cushion that lowers her into the water and raises her up when she's done; not without teething troubles and the occasional hair-raising incident, but we'd be lost without it. There are various bath aids and hoists you can get for home use.

Also she's got used to my staying in the room to help with washing her back, feet and hair. Privacy was a big problem at first; but we've graduated from my literally turning away and making sure she always had a towel to cover herself, to keeping a towelling bathrobe over her shoulders until she's actually in the water, to - at long last - the tacit understanding that we just pretend I'm not there. I always leave the room for a good five minutes to give her a chance to "soak" (read: give the private areas a thorough going over). For hair washing, we use a shower attachment and I give her a dry face flannel to cover her eyes. It's fiddly - takes about three quarters of an hour start to finish, on a good day - but we're getting there. My aim is to get back to every evening, not least to help her relax and sleep better; but I'm mindful that her fragile skin may not be up to it so I'm taking advice on that.

I wouldn't suggest you start interrogating your mother about what the problem is, why she doesn't want to shower. But it might be a good idea to have a close look at what could be putting her off.

Is the bathroom really warm and draught-free?
Is it easy for her to sit down to undress, leave her clothes out of the way, reach everything she needs?
If you were unsteady on your feet, would you feel secure moving around the bathroom, getting into the shower, etc.?
Are the shower controls and bath taps easy for her to use? Can she control the water temperature easily?
Are the bathroom fittings the right height for her? Any corners or accessories that she might catch an arm or her head on, anything like that?

If you've gone through every step of the process pretending you're her, and you can't for the life of you see what could possibly be bothering her, you could next try unobtrusively observing how she manages going to the bathroom etc. and see if you can spot a problem that way.

But at some point, whether you've thought of any possible adaptations or are still at a loss as to what would help, you will need to raise the subject with her. I mean, the subject of why her habits have changed so that she no longer enjoys taking personal care of herself.

If you have found something, such as a difficult bath mixer attachment or a shower step that might trip her, starting the conversation is easy: "I've noticed that x must be quite hard for you to manage, so I was thinking of getting a y installed - what do you think?" Or "Goodness that floor gets cold underfoot! Shall we have a look at some warmer floor covering in the bathroom?"

If there's nothing, then you'll have to get straight to the point of what's on her mind when it comes to showering: "Is there something you just don't like about getting wet nowadays, or anything like that?" - and take it from there.

The thing is, it's such a personal, private subject; but you're right, it has to be tackled. Something is putting her off. It may not be a rational thing, but there's something. And if she really won't discuss it with you, is there a friendly neighbourhood nurse, or another relative who's perhaps closer to her in age, somebody like that, who could have a go for you?

Two years ago, my mother made me promise that I would tell her frankly if she ever "got smelly like some old people." I promised. She doesn't check with me any more, but I'm still going to keep my promise by running her a bath and taking no prisoners the second things get borderline!

Good luck, hope you get somewhere soon with this very difficult one.
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I have read where where the elderly some times become afraid of the shower. I don't know if it is the noise the water makes or the feel of the water hitting them, or the fear of falling in the shower. So I was wondering if a bubble bath would work better.

I don't have this issue with my aging parents, but that time may come before I know it. I'm trying to plan ahead.
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I had the same problem w/MIL. So now I give her a sponge bath every morning when I get her dressed. I am happy if I get her privates washed well. Nothing is more important to me because of the smell etc. For her hair, I wait till she's sitting at the table eating breakfast and then I squirt some shampoo on my hand and go over and start "massaging" her head. Then I say, opps, I guess I had shampoo on my hand. We better rinse that out...........and she cooperates to get that stuff out of her hair :)
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