My husband has dementia and he hates to shower or to wash. He fights with me everytime I take him to the shower. Yes, I wipe him and give him sponge baths, but that can only go far. Everyone needs a shower to wash away the odor and dead skin. How do I do this with engaging in a battle with him? Anyone with similar issues?

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I had the same problem until I found out why my mother didn't want to take a bath. She didn't want to get wet and cold. So I used a space heater to get the bathroom warm and toasty. Then I put some warm water in the tub, not a lot but enough to wash. I have a wash cloth all soaked up and ready to go. Then I tell her to come get her bath before it gets cold. I never ask her yes and no questions I guide the conversation as if she already agreed to it. Eventually it became a non issue for us. Keep calm and be patient. Any sign of frustration will stop any progress. If it fails one day just try again the next day.
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Reply to Sandy321

Thanks for all who shared tips. The advise to just let it go and not to stress is valuable. I found that working on my own expectations & anxiety about my mother not showering sufficiently is key. I try to calm down & prepare myself mentally beforehand. If showering doesn’t work today, maybe the next day will. People with dementia are good at picking the moods of their family members and care givers. Giving control over the hand held shower works as a lot of stress is about loosing control to start with. The same “tricks” don’t always work. It was most helpful for me to read what people here said about all the fears: of the cold, wet, falling, being undressed. It made me realize that we probably superimpose a rational attitude: “what’s the big deal”, but trying to appreciate that there is a genuine fear helps in not trivializing the fear. I try positive reinforcement like “bravo Mammy” when she does sth right. I try saying how lovely she looks after the shower. Being patient really helps because after the protesting and resisting, there is often relief and even enjoyment once it becomes clear that the water is pleasantly warm, and once it sinks in that we are there to give support so the fear of falling or slipping is at least minimized. Thanks all.
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Reply to Gazala
disgustedtoo Sep 11, 2019
Happy to read your post. Although I don't do the hands on care (mom is 96 in MC), I agree with many of your points. Some days this won't work, but that might! Everyone is different and will respond to different tactics, we just have to work out what will work and what won't. When trying to suggest something to my mother, like working with PT/OT because she won't stand/walk after a couple of non-injury tumbles, often it is met with obstinance. It is often like dealing with a 2-3 yo!

When she has an appointment, everything she can think of is attempted ('Do I have to go?', 'What do I need that for?', 'Why do I need that?', 'I don't want to go.' and repeat.) I finally have to be the mom and say put your coat on and let's go. Then it's off to the bathroom, and when done, repeat the above, because she's already forgotten it!
If money allows you to, I would hire a bath aide to come in once a week and let them do the heavy work. A good one will be able to get him clean without the same battle you face.

Do you have a shower chair? Is your bathroom bright? That can cause a person to not be able to determine where the floor, the walls etc are and can increase their chances of falling. Does he have to step into the tub or do you have a walk in shower. There are lots of mechanical aides available to help and increase safety, if you haven't done it, talk to his doctor and ask them for a occupational therapist referral, they will help you get the bathroom to the best possible condition for dealing with a difficult bather.

Best of luck. Hugs to you!
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal

My husband is the same. I hired a lady to come in every other week to groom him. She cuts his hair, trims finger and toe nails, and shaves him. It is his own personal barber time. He loves the attention and pampering ... shes great and only costs $40 a time. The catch is...he has to take a shower the morning before she gets here. He is 98% blind so he struggles with it, but since hiring her, he gets right up and allows me to help him get showered and ready for her appointment. I know twice a month doesn’t seem like enough but its all I can get without a fight and it seems to be doing the trick. When we cruise, he showers almost everyday. I think the big open walkin shower in the ambulatory room is less scary somehow. Good luck...find a treat that will make him want to shower for. It took me almost a year to figure it out. Much love for you and your situation.
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Reply to burlebaby
97yroldmom Sep 3, 2019
Great idea
I understand! My mother-in-law wouldn't go near the shower and refused to get washed up as well, went on for MONTHS-can you imagine? Even though you can't reason with a person with dementia, I tried. Sometimes up to a couple of hours, nothing. The only thing that worked was making her feel "uncomfortable". I "spilled" water on her lap when she was sitting. She stood up and didn't know what to do. I told her we had to get her clothes off so we didn't drip water all over-which we did in the shower. From there I could wash her. It just took something to make her feel uncomfortable and to feel she needed help. That was about a year ago. For the past couple of months, she's been wearing adult underwear. My father-in-law takes them off at night and washes her bottom. Now, I come later in the day and when it's time for changing her underwear, he sits her in the shower and and tells her we need to wash her bottom. It starts out that way, but then becomes an all over shower. So, they do change. Last year she wouldn't eat and was withering away. Now, she's constantly looking for something to eat. Very strange. I'm VERY sorry for what you are going through and hope you have extra help so you can get a break-so important! I don't know if this will help you, but it truly was our only recourse. It didn't hurt her and was for her good, so I could rest in that.
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Reply to jem080164

Often fear is the biggest factor.
Does he have a bench seat or shower chair to sit on? If not that might be helpful.
Do you have a hand held shower sprayer? If so start as his feet and go up. When you get to torso go from behind so the spray is not hitting the chest and face. These are two "vulnerable" areas and can cause fear.
Give him control over the sprayer if possible so he can direct the water where it is comfortable for him.
When my Husband was walking I purchased used walkers from resale stores and put them in the shower for him to hold onto. He was more apt to hold a walker than grab onto the grab bars since he was used to the walker. But he did use the grab bars once in a while. When he was no longer walking I used a shower wheelchair. (I have a roll in shower...lucky me!)
The bathroom can be noisy. So when you don't need the water on turn it off so it is more quiet.
Talk to him in a low soothing voice. Actually lower the pitch of your voice as higher pitched voices can seem harsher. If he likes music soft music might help but be careful as sounds can bounce off walls in the bathroom making noises seem louder.
And do not worry about showering every day. In my State it is required only 2 times a week in residential facilities so if you get in 2 great if you get 3 in you're doing better than State minimum standards! And bathing every day may not be the best for fragile skin anyway.
If all else fails you could hire someone to come in 2X a week to give him a shower.
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Reply to Grandma1954

My Mother hates showers and I can't put her in a tub, so here's what works for us:  I put grips on the wall (removable suction grips) and have her hold them while standing in the tub.  Then I soap her down and rinse her.  If you have a hand-held shower head, rinsing is easy, but you could also use a plastic cup.  If he's afraid of falling (my Mother is) just be very patient and once they hold the grips, it's very reassuring.

I'm like you in that I think people need a good scrub at least once a week.  Otherwise, they smell and the bed linens smell.  When I tell my Mother that she smells bad, she is much more agreeable to getting cleaned up.  My Dad has someone from home health come in twice a week and this works well for him.  His doctor prescribed home health.
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Reply to dlpandjep

This is described as one of the most common problems for a variety of reasons of people with dementia. I've read it all, heard it all. The fact that you can do as much as you are doing is way more than some of us can do! Be grateful for that, and don't stress. If I hear one more person say "create a spa like environment" yada yada I will assault them! One answer that made sense was to get an aide in to help, that a stranger/professional might have better luck. Nope. Of course it depends on the stranger and how much effort they're willing to put forth. When our aide was not getting anywhere I thought well, at least she should do some housecleaning for the 4 hour minimum shift. I think that was not what the aide wanted to do (i.e. actually work). So now not much is getting done and I feel like I need to be present to supervise which is like watching 3 children instead of two! All to conclude that the new reality may be that your husband does not shower, and you will reduce your stress if plan B doesn't work. I realize everyone is different, but the stress and physical fight is not worth it. My mother is almost 97 and we are very sure she has not showered for over 2 years. I KNOW. It sounds dreadful but there is no odor thank goodness. SHe may be washing around..but to me it is not enough to justify nursing home placement when she is otherwise functional in many ways. And if in a NH, then what? So they can terrorize her by force? I've heard so many different points of view. From the great neurologist who specializes who thinks it sounds ageist there are others who say let it go ("if she was 50 do you think they would?") to a nurse and social worker who say they've seen people go for years...Now, if there are other issues, like strong odor or skin breaking down etc...then I don't know what options there are beyond force and threat if it gets to that and nothing else works. But for us, the battle right now is for me to learn, which I am, to just let it go. Unless Teepa Snow starts making home visits:-) LOL.
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Reply to gdaughter
elaine1962 Sep 9, 2019
gdaughter, thank you for your answer. My mother is a little different. She is 95 without dementia. She lives alone with sound mind and very competent. I have had to let go of many things,,her being a hoarder, her being a gambling addict, her not bathing. But, I have been trying to wash her hair since May. The time before that was a year ago. She wears a scarf 24/7 and when she took it off her hair was getting long and full of knots. I waged it and conditioned it and her whole head was full of knots. I had to cut most of her hair off. She was so pissed off about that. I said you need your hair washed more regularly so you don’t have knots!! She’s back wearing that damn scarf and says she’s going to call the cops if I don’t stop nagging her about it. I don’t live with her, just stop in a couple times a week to check on her and bring her food. She takes call a bus a couple times a week to go to the store. Any thoughts on how to handle her HAIR??
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Worriredspouse, as we age it isn't easy to take a shower. I have noticed for myself that taking a shower is like going to the gym for a workout. It can be very exhausting for many seniors. Especially with your hubby having memory lost, etc.

Another thing, some seniors become claustrophobic when in a shower. Especially if there are glass doors. I know for myself, I need to keep the far door open a couple of feet.

Then there is the fear of falling. If your hubby is using a moisturizing liquid soap and/or hair conditioners, it will make the floor of the tub/shower feel like an ice rink, even with a tub mat inside. I almost slipped the other day.

Towel drying isn't easy. I find myself hopping around trying to get one foot and leg dry, can be a challenge. So easy to get one's feet tangled up in the towel.

Then if hubby needs to blow dry his hair, that can be tiring on his arms.

Whew !!

A parent doesn't need to shower daily, twice a week or once a week is good enough, unless they are doing hard labor. If a parent is a Depends wearer, baby wipes work quite well between showers. I found a good product called "water wipes" which is in the baby section.
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Reply to freqflyer

A small SAFE heater to warm the bathroom, a hand-held shower attachment, and a shower bench can help a lot. Think a little like you were bathing an infant. You could put a cape over him and shower/clean his hair, then wrap his hair in a towel or bandana. Then, cover lower half with said cape and shower/clean his upper torso then pin small towel around shoulders. Last, clean lower half. With children, it helps to empower them. If you feel it is safe to do so, allow your husband to manipulate the hand-held shower as much as he can; he can be holding the shower (you can help him if needed by holding his hand that holds the shower attachment) and then you just finish up what he can't reach. Make sure that you're standing on non-slippery surface.
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Reply to lynina2

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