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She has advanced Mac Deg. and severe arthritis. She won't shower anymore unless she's home alone. She waits till I leave and sneaks into the shower. I am very worried about a fall.

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Correction: I should have only said "shower." No tub is involved.
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I didn't see whether Vicpie ever responded back about whether she is positive that MIL really is bathing.

If MIL refuses to bathe unless others are NOT around, that sends up a red flag that she isn't really bathing.

My cousin did the same thing for a over a year, before I realized that these baths she claimed to have had, just before I arrived, never happened. I would check the bathroom and find a dry bathtub, no damp towels. unused soap, etc. Plus, she didn't smell fresh. In my cousin's case, it was dementia in the early stages.

I hope that Vicpie can determine if MIL really is bathing alone or just claiming to do so. If she really is doing it, that would also lead me to question her judgment....either way there is poor judgment that needs to be addressed.
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Get rid of the tub. Use a walk - in shower only. Shower chair. Side rails. They also require assistance and supervisions. Keep showers on schedule--do it 2 or 3 times a week as a compromise.
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Hygiene

Hygiene is just as important as we age, as it is when we are young, but many elderly people worry about having a fall in the bath or shower when they are alone. Our hygiene services can help you or your loved one be confident in their safety, as our ComForCare Private Home Care professional caregivers will assist with help getting in and out of the shower, help with daily grooming, and even care for the difficulties associated with incontinence.
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She can insist all she wants, but she is no longer the boss; you are! Is there a toilet in another bathroom? If so, you could put a lock on the one with the shower or tub.
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Like suggeted. Make as safe as possible. This is what I did for a disabled friend. First, a shower chair. Then everything at that level. Got her a hand held shower head. You can find holders that stick on the wall to be on a sitting level. At the $1.oo store found a toothbrush holder and soap holder with suction cups. The toothbrush holder had a place for a cup. This held her shampoo and the holes for the toothbrush held her shavers. Since I couldn't find a holder for the showerhead, i hadto improvise. Bought two of the hooks with sticky backs. Put them side held the handle pretty well. You can buy the suction cup handles at Walmart for a decent price. Put one next to the seat. One on the wall going out and one on the side of the tub if u feel needed. I had one for Mom and a man pulled on it and couldn't budge it.
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My mom was very modest. She had aides but would only let me shower her and only once a week. I didn't mind. In fact it was my special time with her. I would talk and talk to distract from the task at hand so that she would be comfortable. However i definitely would discreetly check out her body for sores, marks, swelling etc. In fact i noticed swelling in her ankles which turned out to be a dvt (blood clot). It's important that someone does find a way to look her over. .. my mom liked when i would then blow dry her hair. It takes time to get to this point but if someone can find an incentive for your mil...hey after your shower I'll blow your hair, let u use my nice smelling powder etc
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Elders don't want to bath for many reasons that have been discussed here before.
This particular lady will only do it if she is alone in the house. and the other that insists on locking the door.
Change the door lock to one of those security knobs that have the button on the inside but can be opened from the outside with a special tool or if that is lost a slim screwdriver. Keep the emergency opener out of sight of the elder so they can't hide it.
Modesty can also be a big problem at any age so if a loved one is being assisted it is essential to have plenty of warm towels available to cover the area not currently being washed. i usually start at the top then drape a towel over the shoulders thus covering down to the waist then proceed to the second half. The patient does not feel anywhere near as exposed if they have to stand up to get washed between the legs if they are partially cover and thus have their view blocked from what is happening.
Unfortunately this kind of sensitivity seems to be lost on the modern generation of aides.
I was appalled when a refugee from Central Europe covered in tattoos hardly speaking English arrived to give me a bath in the hospital. Did I mention he was a young male?
I absolutely agree that the habit of daily bathing and hair washing is much overdone in the US. Sponge baths are just fine if done properly.
In the UK just after WW11 we had a bath tub in the kitchen covered by a board till Saturday night when water was heated in the nearby wash tub (with a wood fire underneath) Then all three of us took our weekly bath so we were clean for church on Sunday. I think I got mine first then Mum and Dad locked me out of the kitchen
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You can usually tell when a person hasn't bathed in a long time. They smell of body odor and/or sweat and their hair smells. She probably doesn't want anyone to walk in on her while she's bathing. Do you know for sure she's not bathing? The best idea yet is to get a care giver at least twice a week to come and help her get the bath she needs and explain to the care giver that you suspect your MIL isn't bathing like she says and that's her job; get her into the bath and help her to get clean. When it's a stranger, sometimes it's easier to let them in and help with bathing rather than someone that you talk to every day. Most elderly people can get away with a bath twice a week or three times a week because they don't do much during the day unless they are the type to work in the gardens or in the yard on a regular basis. They will need a bath more often then. Make sure the care giver knows that a bath is what she was hired for and try to supply all the equipment needed like a shower chair, rails, etc.
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Willard, they don't call them the "indignities of old age" for nothing!! It is an unfortunate fact that often as we age we can do less and less for ourselves and someone else has to take over. If we are lucky the process is gradual and caregiver and care recipient have time to adjust... I started by helping my mom with her manicures when she could no longer see, the took over foot care, help with bathing was a big step and occurred after a physical crisis, then she gradually accepted help from the aides. Today we feed her, dress her, toilet her and clean her up after accidents and more. It's not fun, it's not dignified, but it has to be done and it is all part of life.
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maybe ""she would" like a little dignity
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are any of you caretakers getting older yet or are you still in your firm twenties, thirties, and forties? I ask bcs your MIL's problem could be simple modesty. it is degrading to gain weight, lose muscle tone, get varicose veins, sagging breasts, etc.. the way we look is part of who we are like it or not. maybe she's just like a little dignity.
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My mom was the same way when she lived alone, she had an aide come in every week to help with her shower, but mom would have her do other things instead. It wasn't until I moved home and helped with her showering myself that I realized she probably hadn't been showering for years! She did sponge bathe and try to keep herself clean, but once the aide and I got her in the shower regularly she would comment that she "tingled all over" after in a good way lol!
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I shower chair for my Mom. Less chance of falling if they will use it.
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Is the bathroom able to be locked? Install what you can to prevent any access..I hope it is not the only facility in the house. Can I ask how your husband views this? Can you turn off the water at that location? Or at least turn it off when you leave. Even if she gets mad you sound like you want to protect her and you will just have to live with her anger if she gets mad at you. Have you thought about why she waits until you are gone? Is it a privacy thing or a dementia issue? Maybe she knows she needs assistance but just cannot ask. maybe hiring an aide from a care organization for 2 times per week to assist her is an option. Expensive shower I know but a good investment if it helps you relax.
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In addition to the other suggestions since you do not say she has dementia or a mental deficiency how about a med alert bracelet so she can get help of need be. Unless someone is in the shower with her she can fall even if you're in the next room and she would have to call for you so this can be somewhat of s piece of mind equivalent and yes the bracelet is worn while bathing
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A bathtub (soaking bath) is one of the most dangerous places in the house. Get rid of the soaking tub, get a standing shower only. Side rails. Shower chair. DO NOT GET a walk-in tub. People try to sell that but it's just as dangerous as a regular tub. Only a standing shower will do. It's a little cheaper but at least they can't drown themselves.
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Eventually she will fall. Now if it's a bath tub where she could soak, not only could she fall, she could also drown. I had to have my tub REMOVED because my mom would wake up in the middle of the night and decide to "take a bath"--I woke up one night and she was stuck in the bathtub and could not get out. Luckily she did not have the water running. I spent THOUSANDS for a walk-in shower so now it is quite impossible for her to drown herself. I miss the bath tub but I did not have a choice. Since having the walk-in shower, bathing her has been a lot easier and she stopped trying to bathe herself. She requires absolute supervision and help to bathe. Side rails and a shower chair and it's not difficult. I HIGHLY advise you to REMOVE THE LOCKS from your bathroom door. IF you have a regular bathtub--GET RID OF IT. If you can't do that, you *MUST* lock the bathroom where she can't get in. You have a serious problem. She may even need around the clock supervision.
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My grandmother used to lock the door, she was old and frail. It would scare me but this was the only way she would bathe. No she would not just shut the door and leave it unlocked. I had grab bars put up in every place she could possibly need one. I had non slip bathmats on the floor and those rough stickums on the floor of the tub. We never had an accident but I was always on pins and needles while she was in there.
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Are you sure she is actually showering?
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