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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.

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.
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Reply to Ahmijoy
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Hello-
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
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Reply to PharSytid
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PeeWee57 Nov 1, 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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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.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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Arlyle Oct 31, 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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Explain to her that unless she showers 3 times a week under supervision she will have to move out. I told my mom she smelled of urine and I wouldn’t allow it! I did everything except hose her down.
So long story short , “Wash up or Move out!”
Its tough love, but you need to be firm,elders always get mad and seem difficult. But they’re scared and sometimes don’t know how to handle things like before.
Good luck
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gdaughter Nov 4, 2019
This particular person has dementia. I doubt the threat would work, and in some cases if the person is in their own house, you can't easily use that threat anyhow.
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I don't think this problem is as rare as it would seem. I like Pharys approach and it would save time for sure. There is no reasoning with anyone who won't bathe, it's either do it or out of my house. No arguing or pleading you'll be wasting your time, emotions and patience. Most facilities recommend 2 times a week and for me, one is acceptable if they can do a good job at the sink the rest of the week. I also keep wet wipes in the bathroom and in the drawer in mom's room. It's not her choice if it's your house so either stay clean or move out.
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Reply to Catnk9
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Why not just switch to no rinse products?   Then you avoid all the anxiety and complexity of getting in and out of showers.

I wish I'd known about these no rinse bath and hair products years ago.   Hospitals and rehab centers use them, so do caregivers.   Give them a try; they're well worth it.  

And it lets the older person retain dignity as well as a sense of control.  I would NEVER EVER again try to convince or force someone into a shower.
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Arlyle Nov 1, 2019
An interesting idea but washing is the biggest problem. She doesn't seem to even use toliet paper anymore. Right now she is sitting on the stairs crying because the caregiver aide is coming again tonight. She does not think she needs help. She feels she can stay here alone. She cannot. It makes me sad to see her like this. Not sure where we will end up....
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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!
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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Arlyle Nov 1, 2019
Thank you.
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I agree with Garden and not forcing a shower. There are other ways to get cleaning done. I use wipes and wash clothes and get the job done quickly.
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Watch how quickly they will make a decision when you stop looking after her. Greased lightening
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Arlyle Nov 2, 2019
Point taken 🤔.
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Isthisrealyreal got it right. Great advice!

Arlyle,
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...
https://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2014/04/5-tips-how-to-get-alzheimers-patient-to.html

All the best!
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Reply to bluefinspirit
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Cbp711 Nov 4, 2019
Great article wish I had that 6 years ago when I tried to get my Mom to shower.
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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. ;)
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Reply to Kalawil65
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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!
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Reply to JoLoBx
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My Mom refuses to use her shower in the AL, and instead uses washcloth and sink.
she has the salon there shampoo her hair once a week.
i did have an aide help her shower in the beginning when she moved in, as she had just been in hospital and was a little unsteady. Later I found out she wasn’t showering at all, and she refuses the aide to help her. she said the experience of being watched traumatized her. So, I offered to “stand guard” outside while she showers, but she still refuses. That tells me she is simply overwhelmed by the whole process.
so I monitor her for any smell, and condition of her skin overall. So far she’s ok.
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Reply to Loris15
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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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Reply to Johnjoe
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If she is aware enough of what is happening that she actually is distressed BEFORE the aide comes, then tell her, get in the shower NOW, do a good job washing and I'll send the aide back home. "NOW, this instant" being non negotiable. If she claims she "already did", don't argue, just stay on point and say "Do it again". That's the deal, or no deal. And I agree with the idea of telling her "Wash or GO" . Most elders are very afraid of going into a nursing home. The threat may hold some power.

Hint: remove all other products from the bath area. They don't read well anymore, and once found my Mom using lotion for her hair, instead of shampoo.
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Reply to DoingbestIcan
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Forget the shower. Get her those Comfort bath cleansing washcloths. You (or she) can clean herself without having to take all her clothes off at one time. They do a great job and leave the skin soft and smelling great. As for shampoo, maybe take her to get her hair done once a week?
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Reply to whaleyf
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Try doing what I did with Bad Dad, Tell her she will End up with Pins worse or even Bed Bugs, This being Said....Will Force Everyone, Hun, TO VACATE.
Hope this Helps.))xxoo
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Parise Nov 4, 2019
PIN WORMS, I MEANT.
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My mom is the same. Too cold and hard for her so we got a portable heater and turn the bathroom into a sauna for her to be comfortable. We had to tell her that she smelled in order to get her to shower. We use a very comfy bath chair - was a cushioned commode chair with tub removed.
I would try asking what she doesn’t like about showering. For my mom she cannot tolerate cold. Oh I also got a really soft bristled body brush A wonderful foot cleaning mat and very nice smelling soaps to make more pleasurable. We present it like a wonderful treat. Sometimes it works! Good luck- I know it can be hard.
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Reply to janlee
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When was MIL usual time to shower - am or pm? Suggest you make this part of her daily routine/ Also some seniors get cold easily. Maybe put a heater or heat lamp in the bathroom and put towel and clothes in the dryer to warm up.

Also, don't "ask" her to take a shower or change clothes. Making it part of her daily routine as in "time to take your bath" and "time to get dressed/changed". Allow her choices in clothing and make bath time about prettying up may also help.
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Reply to Taarna
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My mother is a double amputee and it takes her in home care lady (that we pay out of pocket), my daughter and myself to get and give her a shower. She’s very stubborn as well. You have to slightly be firm with them. You mean well and it’s for their own good. Buy the key is you and someone else have to help her in the shower. You can’t leave her alone. An alternative, is an in bed sponge bath. You don’t want her getting any infections, sores or start smelling. You don’t want someone to report you for elderly abuse. You have to be extra careful placing her in a home. A lot of those places are neglectful and since she has dementia, she wouldn’t be able to tell you what’s going on. You’re best bet is keeping her at home and hire an in home care provider to assist you from time to time. Trust me, I completely understand your frustration. Try to hang in there. Only family could and should provide the best care for their love ones.
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Reply to Zsb415
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I bath my mother every day, I put the bathroom heater on so it is nice and warm one hour prior to showing, I bought a comfortable pivot cushion type shower chair, stays warm and is comfortable and sturdy. The chair turns with a few clicks into her walk-in shower with her on it, you can use it in a tub too, I give her a face cloth to cover her eyes and face, I then proceed to shower. Once her upper body is washed I place a warm towel around her back and front and towel dry her hair, and dress her in her warm bathroom and off to breakfast. It takes about 10 minutes. She sometimes tells me she already showered, but I tell her she needs to shower so off we go. I clean her private area while she is in bed now because it is difficult for her to stand while I clean her in the shower, and I get her much cleaner. I also at times when she is on IV antibiotics I sponge bath her and wash her hair in bed or on the commode next to her bed. I do insist on my mom showering every day and will not accept no for an answer. I have on occasion told her, if I am to continue taking care of her she needs to shower. That pretty much solves the problem. I do have to say this is a rare occurrence, though. I also sing to mom while showering, which makes it enjoyable for her. I then bundle her up with a warm blanket prior to breakfast, put her lipstick and rouge on her, she is happy, content and ready to start a new day.
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My mom has the same problem with my dad and he only showers twice a week. One day I said to him, “It would make mom really happy if you took your shower, even though you just had one yesterday.” (He hadn’t had one the day before, I was just avoiding that argument)
I hadn’t seen him move that fast in a long time. He went right off and took his shower. I think, that inside some of these people, there still resides an eagerness to please. Decide who you feel your MIL is most responsive to or seems to favor and use that person’s name;
“John would be so happy if you took your shower...”
After this worked for my dad, my mom tried it on him herself and told him how happy she would be if he showered. He told her he was too sore from yesterday’s shower to make her happy. Mom and I had a giggle over that later on. It doesn’t always work but on a good day it does.
Best of luck.
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Reply to IamAmy
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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.
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Reply to Daisy9
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Have you tried to use No-Rinse Foaming Cleanser? AloeVesta makes a good one. You could be giving her a "massage" but really cleaning her up at the same time.

We all like to be hugged - use your imagination and take it one day and one step at a time. Start with her arms, legs and/or back - do whatever she will allow. Be extremely gentle as her skin is most likely thin and sensitive.
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Debrajoy Nov 4, 2019
Excellent idea and I will look into the AloeVesta for myself as well. So Thanks!
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Hmmm...from one of your previous posts: "My husband whose mother we are caring for, rides a bike, attends yoga, goes running, always while I am at home with his mother." You also wrote that your bp has gone up since your MIL has come to live with you.

Are YOU MIL's primary caregiver? If so, then how do you feel about it? There's more to her care than the bathing issue, right?
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Reply to CTTN55
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MIL and FIL opted for spot ge baths for a couple of years. Afree FIL passed MIL moved to dementia care home with a walk in shower and now has showers. I was told thT a lot of people with dementia don't like the showering process. They baths or sponge baths. Also MIL used to resist being washed so I told her it would lead to disease and could cause death and her doctor insists. That worked.
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Reply to Embraceall
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When my mother stopped showering on her own, I moved her into the bigger bathroom with tub and shower set-up and tried to get her to shower there. She screamed about the water pressure and the cold. So she ended up sitting in the tub washing herself while I washed her back. Getting her up was tough, but rinsing off was easy; I filled a big plastic bowl with warm water, and poured it where I needed to. The next time she stood, and the time after that we had a bath seat for her. Give her a washcloth and have her help. It took maybe 10 minutes.
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RedVanAnnie Nov 4, 2019
Good idea to have M or MIL help do the washing.
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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!
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Debrajoy Nov 4, 2019
HAHAHA...great story! Loved reading it.
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My MIL and hubby decided no more showers. With Hubby, I preheat towels in the dryer and grab them for him when he is getting out.
I have to help him shower too and it is a once a week .... grave, brave, begging, cajoling, offering treats...ordeal.
It is exhausting for him.

With MIL, after months and months, the home care gal told her it was to the nursing home or shower.
In truth, MIL had it in her head that she had just taken one...when she had not had one in months.

She was so sure she had just had one. But it took literally months of effort. Now she is in a home and looks forward to her showers that she is rolled into.

It is a huge struggle.
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Yep, a bath aide is what you need. I'm sure MIL is probably also a little embarrassed to have a family member she her body parts so a professional is the way to go. God Bless
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