My mother in law attends daycare at JML. She has dementia and lives with us. Though my wife has other family locally the brunt of her care falls on us. There are certain aspects of day to day living that are causing great stress in our home. My mother in law's condition has her at a point where she has forgotten basic hygiene, hand washing after using the bathroom. She then will come into the kitchen and want to either handle things we eat off or do her version of dishwashing which means rubbing food residue off,then wiping and putting things away. We tell her on a daily basis that we don't want her to do any of these things,but she won't listen and it causes a great deal of stress in the house. We have suggested other things for her to do which don't involve her doing the aforementioned things,but she either won't do them or just ignores our request and heads right back to the kitchen and to the sink. Along with the dementia she has very poor vision and is hard of hearing. I am a restaurant owner and hygiene is important. I have given her books and print outs on hygiene. She argues that washing her hands after using the bathroom is not a big deal. We are at our wits end. We want to have her at home for as long as possible,but this issue is getting to everyone here. We worry about someone getting ill . What can we do. Thank you.

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Dementia makes things so difficult. I dealt with the same things when my cousin became effected by dementia. Hygiene goes out the window and there really isn't much you can do to make her change. I suppose it depends on the phase the dementia patient is in, but I don't think reasoning is going to work. Their reasoning leaves and it's just not possible. Even if they agree one minute, they forget the next.

I would recommend that you read as much as possible on Dementia. Do you know what type your MIL has? There are some general characteristics of dementia, but it varies from person to person.

Your MIL's uncooperative behavior is rather common. It actually gets much worse as dementia patients often refuse to bathe, eat, take meds or get out of bed. They may refuse or be unable to use the toilet. Resistance to care if very common.

As you read about all the challenges of caring for a dementia patient, you may discuss options with your wife regarding your MIL's care. It's certainly a very difficult job. Constant supervision and careful handling is required. Many use various techniques including, redirection, distraction, suggestion, etc. This is a hard job that teams of professionals work at in shifts. You might consider bringing in evening workers to help supervise your MIL, so she can stay away from the food and clean her hands when necessary.

I wish you all the best, but I don't see it as likely you will convince a person with significant dementia to obey the rules of the house or remember to use good hygiene. I recall a discussion I had with my cousin, before she went into a Memory Care Unit, in which this very intelligent woman told me that there was no such thing as germs and that food would last forever if left in the fridge! She was beyond rational thought at that point. It's not them being stubborn or rude. It's just their brain renders them incapable.
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Dementia is one thing and eating E-coli is another. I believe her eyesight is failing if she cannot properly wash the dishes or wash her hands. So spell it out to her, she either washes her hands or goes to a Nursing Home where someone else will wash them for her. Lay down the law.
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