MIL with dementia who lives with us has basically quit showering and changing clothes. She gets upset if I try to assist her. We have tried home care but she will not permit the aide to do anything. We frequently remind and suggest bathing but she insists she has already done it. She has not of course. I am not sure if she thinks she has bathed or if she just doesn't want too. We put a chair in the shower and also the handheld wand. We offered to remove these things in case she just doesn't like them but she said no. I really think my husband, his brother and father need to start looking for placement, but they just seem unable to make the decision. In the meantime how do I get this dear lady to wash?
Thank you.

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Arlyle, it would be through a home health service that you would find a bath aide.

I have a couple of questions and ideas that might help your aide to get a bath done.

Is the chair a shower chair? These things get cold, so a hand towel will help make her more comfortable.

Is your bathroom bright? Depth perception is affected by age and bright bathrooms can feel like a fall waiting to happen. Hang something up to define the shower space with color, make sure that there is enough light.

Let her determine the water temperature, even if it feels to cold or hot, if she is good with it work around your discomfort, gloves help with temperatures.

Give her a towel or a cape to cover herself for modesty. I would also give a a big fluffy wash cloth to cover her face when her hair is being dealt with. Always try to avoid water cascading down her face, it can feel like water torture because they don't remember not to breathe in.

Put a space heater in the room and get the temperature comfortable for a wet body.

Use products that are gentle and low sudsing.

Have a plan to get in, get it done and get out as quickly as possible. She sits down and you wet a wash rag for her to clean herself or for the helper to do this, while she is rinsing herself off her hair is being washed, after her hair move to the areas that couldn't be reached sitting down, let her hold on to the wall or grab bar while she is cleaned or let her clean her nether regions, but she has to do a good job or it needs to be done for her, sit down after a good rinse and give her a dry towel as her feet are being cleaned, turn the water off and start drying as quickly but gently as possible, always let her have a dry towel in addition to the towels being used by others.

This can literally get to a 5 minute operation.

Tonight when the aide gets there, have everything ready, help her get it done and when mom says she already did it, laugh lovingly and say it's already time again, gently body route her into the bathroom and make encouraging comments the entire time as you give her step by step instructions or tell her what you are going to be doing. I am going to shampoo your hair now, so you'll feel me giving it a good scrub. Doing great, just a sec longer, oh doesn't that feel so good. You get the idea.

The hardest thing to do is to not let her say no. She may cry and rant and rave, but that is okay. How many times have you given a crying kid a bath? That is their choice, bathing isn't.

You can do this!
Helpful Answer (17)
Arlyle Nov 2019
Thank you.
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When I was a child my mother would make me take a bath after playing outside. If I refused or said "I don't want to", her response to me was "I just put clean sheets on your bed and you can't put a dirty body in a clean bed". So, I took a bath and all was well.
Many years later when she gave me problems about bathing, I remembered how she got me in the tub and used this tactic on her. When I would show up after work to assist her with bathing, clean sheets would be put on her bed and laundry gathered to begin after her bath. Then I would look at her and say "ready to take that bath?" to which she would reply "I don't need a bath, I washed up already". I would then explain that I just put some fresh clean sheets on her bed and that she now had to take a bath BECAUSE "you can' put a dirty body in a clean bed". The first time I used that line, she said to me, "whoever told you that?" and when I said "you did, aren't you going to practice what you preached to me growing up?" She would get a disgusted look on her face and then say "OK, lets get this over with". Afterwards while drying her hair she would comment on how much better she felt and then take credit for living by her own words.
Long story short, I used her own psychology on her and it worked. Thanks Mom!
Helpful Answer (15)
Debrajoy Nov 2019
HAHAHA...great story! Loved reading it.
I used to have to battle my non- dementia mother about bathing and tried several approaches: the first two I wouldn’t recommend for you to try due to the dementia, but hopefully you will get a chuckle out of it. One time I brought the garden hose inside, stood in front of mom in Her Chair blocking the tv, aimed the nozzle at her and said, “ the water might be a little cold at first” and we glared at each other for a minute or two and I told her to reach for the sky and she finally agreed to take a shower. The second time I simply told her that when you have more cheese than Wisconsin, it’s an issue. Have you offered to help her shower meaning she just sits in the chair and you do the shampooing washing and rinsing? This worked for my mom. As Ahmijoy said, she could be afraid of falling or something. Offer to help her shower including you shaving her legs, maybe a mini pedicure by doing a sugar scrub on her feet, try bribing her with a fragrant soap and body lotion in a scent that she likes- present it to her as a ‘day spa’ session special for her or something of the sort. If she does have a fear of falling etc, presenting it like this let’s her know she won’t be alone cause you’ll be there with her. Good luck and let us know what works.
susan xoxoxo
Helpful Answer (12)
PeeWee57 Nov 2019
I love your sense of humor! I've resorted to the same kind of thing when Mom refuses to cooperate. Fortunately, we both laugh, and it puts things in a better perspective.
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Isthisrealyreal got it right. Great advice!

This is a VERY common topic wrt the elderly, in general, and those with dementia, in particular. You have to understand that your MIL isn't refusing to bathe just to anger you, and you can't reason or argue with a person who has dementia.

I think early on in my MIL's AD, her lack of showering was mainly due to the difficulty/hassle of the process. She wanted to be clean, but the ordeal of getting undressed, turning on the water, having a towel ready, having a change of clothes picked out and ready, making sure to hold onto something and don't slip, etc. was just overwhelming for her. She also wanted to be independent and do it all herself; so, in the end, she would simply wash her face and rub her head with a washcloth and call it a shower. To her, it was exactly the same thing.

Now, in the later stages of my MIL's AD, there seems to also be a real fear of the process. She may be afraid of the water (not uncommon with AD patients, as their depth perception changes), or she may be afraid of falling, but I think the fear of failure is what really gets to her deep down. She doesn't even fully understand it, I think, but what we consider a simple thing, like choosing something to wear after a shower, has become a traumatic experience for her.

I don't know the stage of your mother's dementia, but the best advice I can give is follow Isthisreallyreal's advice, and do NOT threaten, try to reason, or argue with her. Be a guide and helper and be positive. If you do this, it will get easier, I promise!

Here is an article I found extremely helpful...

All the best!
Helpful Answer (11)
Cbp711 Nov 2019
Great article wish I had that 6 years ago when I tried to get my Mom to shower.
Sometimes people with dementia suffer from claustrophobia and a fear of falling. And she may truly believe she has bathed. I suspect there is more going on here since you say you think she needs placement. If you are mostly responsible for her care, you have a valid say in this. You can state that you are weary over fighting with her and she needs to go where she will have three shifts of caregivers seven days a week.
Helpful Answer (9)

I would hire a bath aide and be sure that you are present and make it a non option to say no. A good bath aide can do wonders getting someone to bath.

I recommend watching a program on PBS called America, it is about grandsons caring for their 93 year old grandmother and how they accomplished baths and incontinence care etc. It was very informative. Grandma obviously had dementia.
Helpful Answer (7)
Arlyle Oct 2019
We have an aide coming twice weekly, I am unsure of where you find a "bath aide" specifically.
When I tried to do a search for that before, I got a lot of objects like handles and chairs etc.... Finding the specific professional, did not come up. In any event she is refusing any and all assistance.
When we tell her she hasn't bathed she says "you people are crazy".
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My mom had dementia too. When I was able to get her into the shower she acted like she was being tortured. So eventually I gave that up and she was refusing to go anyway. Since I had to toilet her as well, it was fairly easy to remove her pants and top and give her a sponge bath on the toilet. Also washed her hair while on the toilet. Sometimes I used that dry shampoo. Give up thinking you will do this as often as you might wash yourself. Accomplishing this even once a week is a miracle. Settle for washing hands and face for the rest of the time. Good luck!
Helpful Answer (7)

So many good answers and information here. Please do remember that older people are genuinely cold. I gave my MIL both long and short sleeve undershirts long before she needed daily assistance. She was grateful for them and wore them every day. People with ALZ are frequently afraid of things we don't give a thought to. My MIL was afraid of bath water, rain water, sunshine and many other things. You are dealing with your MIL. Your husband needs to get involved and not ask, but tell her firmly as with children: "Yes, mother, you will bathe at least twice a week or move out or go to a NH (or whatever)", although she probably will not remember that. He may need to tell her every bath day. When we hired a tech to bathe my MIL she would make every excuse possible ("It's raining; my allergies are acting up; I just had my flu shot", etc.). We finally gave the techs the magic words: "(insert her son's name) says you have too." She complied. It's not a discussion or choice; it's necessity. MIL continued to have her hair washed and set once a week without problem. Thankfully she could still read. We placed a large print sign in her bathroom "Mama, change your panties every day" with husband's signature. One clean set of clean clothing with all garments on one hanger was hung in her closet every other day and dirty clothing was removed when she was out of her apt./room so she could not put them back on. It worked for us. Hope you find some key elements in all of our experiences that will work for you too. Good luck.
Helpful Answer (7)

I bought a bidet for myself a couple years ago and had a handyman/plumber attach it to one of our toilets when he was here for other small jobs. It was only about $35 on Amazon. I love it and wonder how someone with dementia would like it. Although I am not optimistic about that you never know. I may encourage my husband to try it before his Parkinson’s dementia progresses. That might help with one end of the hygiene challenge. ;)
Helpful Answer (6)

Hi Arlyle. This is the normal for Dementia & Alzheimers Sufferers. My Late Mother Who had Alzheimer's refused to shower too. Throughout Moms Life She had been a bath every night of the week Lady, but the disease of the Brain (Alzheimers) killed that. As I could not intrude
on my Mothers privacy I asked a retired Nurse Who Mom had a great bond
of friendship with to call for four hours one day every week to look after Moms hygiene, showering and checking for bed sores etc, which my Mother thank God never had, and to check on Moms over all general health. On
Nurse Helens first visit Mom refused to take a shower but agreed on the second attempt and there after. This really made a huge difference to Mom.
She looked beautiful again, and was much happier in Herself. I used to say to
Mom ( You look beautiful Mammy, Marlyn Monroe eat Your Heart out You are
stunning. This gave Mom a lift and it encouraged my Mother to take a shower
more often and She did. Showering is so vitally important as well as limiting
UT's. Good Luck Arlyle.
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