Mom is refusing to let the nursing home staff bathe her. Tips?

Asked by

My mother with Alzheimer's hates to bathe generally. I have had her showed time changed to a shift when I can be with her at the nursing home, but sometimes she refuses and I can't get her to take one. I am concerned about her heath. Has anyone else tried anything that worked in getting your elderly loved one to be willing to bathe? Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
First, get written orders from her MD that she is to be bathed at least weekly. Second, have him write an order for calming meds one hour before the bath or shower.
Third, you don't need to be there. Patients are actually more cooperative with the RN's than they are with relatives.
I was a privately hired caregiver, who helped a patient in the Nursing Home, for 3 hours a day. You can hire outside aides to help. Make sure however, that they feel skilled at getting the person to get to the bathroom and shower. I woke up a patient, and she was incontinent at night, and she often refused to get up, so I would kneel by the bed and keep her company and agree that being cozy is good. After a few minutes, she would be a bit more active conversing with me, and I would agree with what she was saying, even a complaint. And then I'd repeat, let's get you headed towards getting up - and move the blanket off her, and agree with her complaint, add a hug, say I understand what a pain it is. My attention was on any moment where I could say, OK, let's sit up, and I'd help with that process, and pause. After a bit, say with my arms in position to help her use my hand to pull herself up OK, let's go, it's so important, doing great.

And once she was up, I'd keep up my banter as well as my guided push towards the bathroom. Agree with her, empathetically, and in a moment, just make next suggestion, as if it was not connected to her earlier refusal, as if that had been part of a process which was understandable and we are now moving on.

And it's like moving a car on a snowy road, once moving, focus steady movement with no stops - minimize the length of those, in positive but focused way. Be sure ahead of time, that bathroom is set up safely. Have towels and underwear handy for later. Step by step. I didn't worry about time, and I might emerge from shower helping, wetter than she was. Having a MD order is a good idea, even for twice a week.

Some aides are good at this, make sure it's happening. When I left that job with that woman, the next aide kept writing in her notes, "pt refused to shower. Non-compliant." And no showers were done, only sponge baths, where it is hard to see what's being cleaned with a large person. Two months later she developed a red rash so large and so bad she had to be sent to a pain management center for several weeks. So make sure they are tracking each time she actually HAS a shower, and there is a process in place for effective care.
My hubby, who has dementia, would freak out if I try to get him under a shower or into the bath tub. I sponge bathe him in bits and pieces, and he always comes up smelling like a rose. I do his torso one day and his legs and feet a day or two later. Needless to say, I wash his privates whenever he is incontinent, which is very often. I am fortunate in that I have family living in the upstairs apartment, and I have a wonderful support system. Be that as it may, there is no reason whatsoever why a caregiver should not be satisfied with a sponge bath as I have outlined. There is no law that the patient has to have a shower or a bath. No law at all! :)
Try to make the shower as much a pleasure as possible, with a reward at the end. I use Shampoo on my Dad, tea tree by OGX/organix. The hair and back are like a back rub, he sits in the shower chair and holds the hand held spray(control) Then he gets coached through the rest of the bath/shower washing himself with a wash cloth, while the aide (or me) holds the spray. After he is done, he gets ice cream or hot coco with whipped cream. He gets lots of praise for how clean his skin is, how good it looks, How handsome he is, how improved the purple on his legs is, how his black toe nails are almost gone *Wild Harvest Tea Tree Ointment), etc. It works better for the aides than for me, but it works.
Tell her that she has a date. That she needs to bath and do her hair. Take the time once a week to do her nails and feet along with her hair. If she wore make up do this to. Make it a special day. This will give you time to check her skin conditions, in case she might have torn skin or sores. This will give you a special memory when she passes away.
My wife is reluctant to take a shower.. I find that promising to shave her armpits helps, and I always, always tell her how good she looks afterwards, how gorgeous her hair is looking... Of course she forgets by the time it's time for the next one, but sometimes a little trigger helps.. E.g. Let's get your hair looking good again.. Think how good you will feel afterwards.. Let's get you nice and clean then you can try that new blouse/dress/bra on..
There is a product called "bath in a bag" which can be extremely helpful. Everything you need to clean the individual is in a bag that you place in the microwave to heat to an appropriate warmth. It is really a no fuss no mess way to keep your loved one clean. You should be able to find it at local pharmacy's, I think Wal-Mart carries a similar product as well.
My mom was always meticulous about grooming. As she began to be more and more dependent, she let so much go. She wouldn't shower or bathe, and things that she would have had a fit about in years past began to happen. As her vision faded from macular degeneration, she spilled food and coffee all over herself, and the thing that GROSSED ME OUT was she always had crap ( both literally and figuratively) under her fingernails. Even if she did wash her hands (and I'm not convinced she did very often), she or the aides in the NH never actually scrubbed under her nails. It not only grossed me out, it made me sad that the mother that was so proud of her appearance was leaving me. I would clean and scrub under her nails and even paint them if she would let me. It worked for me to praise and flatter her and tell her how good she looked. I usually wasn't present when she was showered, but part of what she hated was being cold. She was also very modest, and having her clothes taken off by people she didn't know ( or like) was hard for her
Mom was fighting with the staff when I appeared for the visit. I looked at her, took off my own socks and shoes, rolled her in the shower and said, "It is spring on Silver Lake- you have your skis on and the rope is tightening. you say "hit it." and zoom- (now I spray the water around her legs and buns) She laughs and says, "You fool." and the shower is done. Janie Jasin 14 years - Mom in long term care with Parkinson's- dementia- private pay- me? an only child. And creativity saved my assets. Speaker for hundreds of Health Care events and grateful child.
Don't anyone think I am callous for this comparison, but we raise horses, and I have often found similarities between dealing with fearful or nervous horses and either young children or people dealing with dementia issues. For instance, many horses are fearful of a bath and this is how we deal with them:

You don't ask if they want a bath, of course they don't. But you know they need one and are calm and respectful, but gently firm. Our trainer likes to say, "As gently as possible, as firmly as necessary." You have all your supplies ready and everything in place to make the experience as pleasant and comfortable as possible. You start bathing in the areas they are most comfortable with, taking your time and talking soothingly all the while. Then move on gently to a surrounding area. If any resistance is encountered, you move back to where it was comfortable for them for awhile and move on again until you are done. If it's chilly a rubdown with several nice heated towels is a good way to end and make sure it is always a positive experience for them. Then tell them how good they were and don't they feel and look and smell nice? The most important aspects are calmness on your part (becoming angry about an irrational fear never helps) and not seeming to rush through it (while at the same time not taking any longer than is necessary and dragging it out). When they have a negative experience it only makes it harder the next time, for the both of you.

This may sound patronizing, and I know people are not animals, but if you are dealing with someone who has unwarranted fear or irrational reluctance and cannot be logically reasoned with, it may help someone.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support