What do I say to my MIL when she refuses to wash?

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HELP! I am a caregiver for my MIL, she just turned 85 but has always been a woman who has been spoiled to the point where she never did much of anything herself. When I ask her to change her pull-up, her standard answer is; "I don't need to, I am dry". She will go all day without changing, she will change before she goes to bed. Now she doesn't want to wash her hands before we eat, she says that's not her way, I told her it's our way and if she doesn't want to wash, than she doesn't touch any of the food when we all are eating at the table. I just don't know what to do anymore. My children don't want to come over to dinner because they see her with her finger up her nose all the time they are here visiting.

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It sounds like your mother-in-law may have developed dementia symptoms. Having her diagnosed may not help this situation, but it may help you and family better understand why she is acting this way.

If she is cognitively healthy and just spoiled as you indicate, then a tougher approach may be needed. Either way, if your family finds her behavior so disgusting that they don't want to visit, you may have to find another way to have her cared for. I do feel a visit to a neurologist is in order to determine what's going on.
Good luck,
Carol
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My mom refuses to wash also. She states she doesn't need to wash or she dreads it. My mom was always so put together and fixed up all the time and now will not get ready or barely change her pajamas. She has finally got to the point to get her hair washed and fixed once a week. This is a sign of dementia. Dementia isn't just about losing memory, it is an umbrella of many symptoms. Losing the ability to want to bath and wash is definitely a symptom. Dementia has to do with cognitive, reasoning, and many behaviors. Do not be fooled by not losing memory. It may seems she is using the "spoiled" tactic with you, but I imagine it is something more. Maybe you can pass out a wipe at the table for everyone and you may be surprised to see her use it. My mom's first response to anything and everything is NO. Maybe don't ask her to do it, just give her something to wipe her hands once she sits at the table. Good luck. I know how frustrating this is. I am still learning after 3 years of a diagonsis.
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This is a bit sneaky, but lean over and squint and announce "Lice! You have head lice!" because children of the Great Depression remember head checks like it was yesterday. Fake some panic in your voice and say " Oh! Mom! We need to get you in the shower right away! Clothes and all! OMG! Those cooties will be everywhere!" and hose her down. Change the bed too, make it really convincing.
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Oh, dear Ferris, I think you're confusing probiotics, such as beneficial bacteria in the gut, with all the other bacteria that's out there that is most definitely not beneficial. If her MIL is changing her own undergarments and has "her finger up her nose" the rest of the family runs the risk of exposure to E. Coli from one end and Staphylococcus and Strep from the other. EVERYONE needs to wash their hands, especially before eating.
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Although Chicago1954's advice of insisting that she move out seems rather insensitive and harsh, it should be considered for 3 reasons. one--You have kindly taking her in respecting her and respect should go both ways. She is obviously not being respectful to her benefactors and there is no excuse. Two...she Is posing a health threat to you. I worked as a volunteer at an Alzheimer's/Dementia facility and we had an obligation to other patrons to protect them from potential illness by making certain to utilize disease prevention etiquette such as handwashing, anitbacterial products etc. Victims of Dementia don't understand and inconsiderate individuals don't see the need to protect others from catching their virus and germs. Third...Your home is your home. It's a place where you want to feel like it's your place of relaxation, comfort and shelter. You want your kids not to dread coming to your home. MIL seems to disrupt that good feeling. I would suggest as we did at the Facility...Be kind, but be firm and insistent and tell her what will be the alternative if she doesnt wish to comply with the house rules---she needs to find a place in her room to eat or another place where she can live as she pleases (assisted living or nursing home).
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As well intentioned all of these responses are nothing, absolutely nothing will get my father to shower. My husband and I have given up. Yes he smells a bit; he leaks urine and refuses to wear Depends so I put those little pads in his underwear and most of the time he wears them complacently, not noticing. We have learned to let it go; bring it up occasionally and have decided that when it gets too bad we will have a male home care CNA come in and help us. There is no right or wrong in this caregiving business; everyone is unique and all we caregivers can hope to do is keep the person we are helping well and ourselves too. I almost had Breakdown #2 over this business until I realized my health is vital to dad's well being. I take each day at a time and try to keep calm.
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I think jeweltone has the right idea about offering wipes. Your MIL sound like my mother who has been recalcitrant and obstinate her whole life, now add dementia and it's a nightmare. Perhaps a bit of stealth tactics are in order: Gold Bond makes a product called "Gold Bond Ultimate Hand Sanitizer Moisturizer"--it's a sanitizer that looks just like hand lotion. You might even want to put it in a different bottle.
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At my Mother's busing home, all of the patients wash. They are bathed and they wash their hands. Disease spreads to quickly, not to wash hands frequently.

Before my mother went there, she didn't bathe either. But, once it became routine at the NH, she just goes with the program.

My MIL's AL, recently had a virus, that quarantined them all to their rooms, for 10 days. The whole place was cleaned like a ship. So, I have both mother's in different homes and everyone is clean.

My advice is insist that she move out. You really don't need her problems.
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kthin3 - We too, could NOT get my father to shower or bathe...ultimately he got cracks between his toes and ended up with a very severe foot infection, almost losing his foot. We hired an outside STNA to give him a shower weekly, it was amazing how meek he was with a stranger vs. how combative he was with his family. He did suffer from some dementia at the time as well.
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I did have to feed my sister separately because she open-mouth chews things. The loud smacking and nasty visual was more than my family could take. Nose picking should be corrected as you would any five year old with a firm NO and enforced hand washing with baby wipes if nothing else.
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