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My mom will be 90 this year, lives in an Independent Living facility; we moved her from her rather isolated home after social isolation, panic attacks, labile BP and several trips to the ER exhausted us all and made us realize that living alone, even with aids, was not a good option. Further testing revealed that she has a "mild cognitive impairment, but not dementia". Mom now has a UTI; she's had a couple in the past couple of years. This one is MRSA based, very worrisome. I noticed that last time she was in the Hospital for a pleural effusion, when she would use the bathroom, she would just rinse her fingertips, no soap. At the time, it didn't seem worthwhile to argue about. But this memory came back to me yesterday after the doctor called to tell me what kind of infection this was. I called Mom and talked to her about hand washing. She says that she ALWAYS uses soap, that in the hospital, she was "different". I put this info out to the family, and just got an email back from my sister in law, who takes her out to eat often. She says she's NEVER seen my mother wash her hands with soap in a public restroom. How would you address this issue? I've already emailed her doctor and the geriatric psychiatrist who see her; can you think of any other strategies to use?

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I have the same problem with my mom. She has Alzheimer's and is now in an assisted living for memory care. This woman used to have the best personal hygiene, now it's just plain gross. I told the staff and had noted that she is to be given baths as showers freak her out. She also gets UTI due to hygiene, the last one she had showed traces of E-Coli bacteria. She unfortunately gets dirt, food and waste under her nails and then is constantly putting her fingers in her mouth. I try to keep her nails really short and have to remind the staff to do the same. All I can say is just try and push the hand washing every chance you can.
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The only way I can get my mother (who has Alzheimers) to do anything she stubbornly resists is to tell her that three doctors said she has to do such and such. Because when she was officially diagnosed, there were three doctors in the ER and that's what she remembers as part of her "breakdown" that these doctors said she has to change her lifestyle overall in many ways. If I don't say this, she will fight me tooth and nail on some things, and it's not particularly pretty when she does.
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Update: talked to my mom tonight, usee the "the doctor says you have to use soap, preferably anti-bacterial soap or hand sanitizer more" (the doc actually did say that). So Mom says, oh, I read somewhere that it's not good to use so much soap. I told her this doesn't apply to her. Let's hope we're on a good road here. thanks to all for the great advice!
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Thankfully to date this is not a problem with my mom who lives with us. It is a major problem and always has been with my MIL now age 83.

For over 30 years I have observed her go to the kitchen sink, run a tiny bit of water over her finger tips and proceed to prepare refreshments, cook meals, etc. It has always grossed me out, to the point I can't stand to eat there. FIL doesn't even bother with the little dab of water, just picks his nose and helps cut the cake.I know much worse goes on in restaurants but I don't actually watch it taking place, and we wonder why MRSA is running rampant........... Maybe more common in a generation where so many grew up with no indoor plumbing? All speculation on my part.
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Same problem with my mother in law. So, I solved the problem of putting a pump dispenser of hand sanitizer next to the sink, and telling her to use this. She had a stroke and can only use one hand, so this has worked tremendously. Initially, we had to remind her, but now she goes right to it after she uses the bathroom.
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Also, my grandma drank hardly anything. Which can contribute to UTIs. Now that she is living with me I have her drinking lots more including water. Also, another issue we have is that she will only use 2 sheets of toilet paper to wipe herself after she pees. I am trying to get her to use more toilet paper, but am not in there often.
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I found with my Mom,who had alzheimers, that keeping a tube of hand lotion with sanitizer (I used the Gold Bond brand) worked. Every time she sat down at the table she automatically put on hand cream. I also kept a tube in my purse, after a visit to the restroom, I would say don't your hands feel dry, want some lotion. Of course the answer was always yes. Maybe this might help you too. I had bottles and tubes of this laying around everywhere. Putting up a sign also helps to remind them. This is very common in dementia and Alzheimers patients. Think of a six year old child or a toddler. They get distracted, they forget. Try and be more patient,..they really don't realize they haven't washed their hands.
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I have the same problem with my 89 yr old grandma with dementia. I will tell her to wash her face or hands using soap. I go in there right afterwards and you can see the soap hasn't been used. She won't use the dispenser only the bar. Now I have to take her into the bathroom and stand there and watch her wash her face or hands. Just like a child. I have tried using "the doctor says". She says the doctor doesn't know anything. The doctors don't know what they are talking about started a few years ago. Also, when she was living alone she wouldn't take showers or change her underwear. She kept getting UTIs. Now we have shower days on certain days. Always the same day. I have her take a shower as soon as she gets up. I put the shampoo in her hair and body wash on her wash cloth. Also, I stand there to make sure she washes herself. My grandma use to keep a VERY clean house and she became so disgusting and hoarding. She gets mad when I am cleaning and she tries to hoard things. I am always checking her bedroom. Good luck. I feel for you and understand.
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I have the same problem with my mom. She definitely has dementia of the Alzheimer type. The help at the AL facility is excellent for gently reminding her about hand washing. There is a hand sanitizer dispenser at the entrance to their dining room, and a sign reminding the residents to use it. On her own, I don't think my mother would remember to wash her hands. In a related issue, she never flushes the toilet, either. That drives me crazy. I don't understand why hygiene becomes such an issue, but it really does.
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IMHO 'mild cognitive issues' is just a term for describing what may be the start of age onset dementia. A few thoughts: UTIs cause confused behavior so it is important to get them cleared up and prevented going forward. Make whomever is visiting, responsible for good hand washing w/Mom. Get pump soap or bar soap or whatever will work. Always accompany her to the rest room, pour that soap into her hands. Tell a story while she is washing to help her do it longer. I happen to volunteer at a hospital where they tell you to sing the happy birthday song while you wash your hands. It gives a point of reference. If you can afford them, get the hand wipes for travel and outside use. Take one out, turn to your Mom and hold her hands while you cleanse them. And the mention of 'the doctor says' works wonders with this age group! Both mild and advanced cognitive impairments make our seniors act like toddlers. You wouldn't let a 4 year old sit down to eat after playing outside and we can't let our loved ones do it either. Hope this helps.
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My Dad has had several strokes, memory issues and I believe mild dementia...he will not shower, which is very common. I have been told by VNA and others in the field that water/washing/showering is for some a very fear filled experience. Dad allows me to sponge bathe him.
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As my mother ages and her dementia progresses, her personal hygiene habits have gone out the window. This is a woman who used to wipe her kitchen counters with a bleach solution to eliminate bacteria. But maybe your mom, like many others, has always had that bad habit of not washing her hands, but now that you're needing to pay closer attention to what she's up to, you're more aware of it.
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As I said in my original post, we were told last year that my mom had mild cognitive issues, and we were told this was most definately NOT dementia. However, this feels to me like a dementia related issue. What do you all think?
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My 82 year old Dad is the same...I give him a squirt of hand sanitizer whenever I can...after he has been in the bathroom and before he eats. I do know that with some infections only soap and water will help though. When I wash him up daily his hands get a soap and water cleanse.
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I had the VERY same problem with my 97 yr old M-I-L when she lived with us. My husband & I constantly reminded her to wash her hands. Just like your Mom it was even worse when she was in a public restroom. I would just lead her to the sink & either point out the soap or sometimes just tell her to put her hands under the dispenser. It was very frustrating to me because I am a big believer in washing your hands. She had two UTI's in 6 mths while living with us. She is now in a nursing home & who knows what goes on!!!!!!! Wishing you the best and hope you realize you can only do so much!
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