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It is not unusual for elderly people to resist showers, especially if they have Dementia. If a patient has Alzheimer's Disease they are terrified of water or even crossing a threshold. To prevent extreme anxiety, struggling or even combative behaviour, a stand up "duck bath" or a bath outside of a shower given by a hired Caregiver is much less stressful. In cases of Dementia or just Elderly Resistance, a shower frightens the elderly person due to fear of falling or simply preferring a bath. Bath lifts run by battery will lower & raise a person in & out of the tub. Bathing equipment is available for rent or for sale to insure safety in the shower. Assistance is helpful to calm fears. Hair washing at a Salon once a week is helpful as well. Elderly people tend to have dry skin & itching after a shower can cause resistance as well. Twice a week bathing is certainly acceptable & application of a moisturizing lotion after a bath is necessary. Remember to use no perfumed soaps or shampoos. Schedule a regular day for bathing. Consistency is key for comfort.
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Dear all. Glad to know I'm not alone. Here's something that may give you a laugh. At the doctor's yesterday mum was asked by the very sympathetic doctor if she would consider Meals On Wheels. Mum's reply " Well, I'd love to help out but I'm far too busy". T
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This is my experience - I spoke to an elderly lady about showers, 'I have them myself'. I discovered that when I turned to her wardrobe to get clean clothes out for her, by the time I had turned around to face her, the lady had completely forgotten what we were talking about so agreed to come to the shower, which was already set up, towels, etc. In other words, the lady had memory loss and while it is a sneaky way of getting the job done, it worked!!! Also, most elderly people think they can wash their wash back, they can't. An offer to help wash their back becuase they can't do it themselves, is a good one. I hope this helps, Arlene
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As most of the posters have said, this is a very common problem among dementia/Alzheimer's patients particularly but many non afflicted elderly as well. You have a lot of empathy and company on this site - my 94 year old mother refuses to bathe (says she does the sponge bath thing) but she is anything but fresh smelling. I'm worn out from trying to get her to want to do this for her own well being and dignity, as many others will attest to as well. Perhaps knowing you have so much company will alleviate some of the guilt and/or feelings of needing to make this better for your mother as some things are simply out of our control.
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My Mom is almost 91. I bathe her once a week. She is about 5 feet tall & weighs about 87 lbs. I used to bathe my Dad once a week before he passed on. I am about 4'10" & weigh 126. Both parents got to where they did not want to take baths. My Dad would say no, & then complain thru the whole process, but once done, he felt better. I used to heat up the bathroom w/a portable heater & coming out soaking wet from sweating. For whatever reason they don't like bathing, they still do it very reluctantly. I had to muster up tons of patience & pretend they were not my parents, but my patients. I do not look forward to still doing my Mom, & it's exhausting emotionally, but the alternative is much worse to me. I am constantly using plastic gloves when changing my Mom's underwear between bath days, & I bleach everything. I believe those strangers who get alzheimer patients can do do because they don't take the comments made personally, so I learned not to care about what comes out of their mouth, because they are not the parents I grew up loving. My Mom has become a child again, & lives in her memories of when she was being brought up, so I talk with her as though she is a child, although a child is easier to care for because they are learning, while my Mom is forgetting.
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If your parent has a very poor memory and will forget what you told them within a few hours. It usually works best if shower in the morning before the person (we'll say 'Mom') changes out of their pajamas.
First, get the towels, shampoo,... ready. Second, when Mom is already on the toilet, or removing their pajamas; say "Mom, _________ (a person they would really like to see...like a friend, spouse, pastor,...) is coming see you this afternoon and I know you'd like to look good so we are going to take a quick shower before they get here. At the same time, be helping her remove her clothes. Then continue talking about how great it will be... AS YOU ARE WALKING HER into the shower!
If mom tries to back out once you have her near water... , say "We are already almost done / finished! You are doing great & are being so helpful...".
Keys to success:
THE SHOWER: Have a 'shower chair' (buy one specifically for that purpose) in the shower. Use a shower sprayer that has a LONG flexible hose that's permanently attached to shower spout & that allows you to spray only small targeted areas & have as way to temporarily shut the water off. A bonus is to have a way to hang the 'temporarily shut off shower head' onto shower wall... so water will not spray on you or mom when you set sprayer down when you're washing her hair...
Be prepared by having 2-5 towels, 2-3 washcloths, & soap in place ready to use when needed & water correct temperature. Make actual time in shower QUICK (5 minutes maximum). Simplify the shower process by using only ONE soap that can be used on both body & hair/head.
Washing: 1. Wet one washcloth & give to mom & tell her to wash her own face. 2. As she is doing that, tell her you are going to get her a little wet now to check the water temperature, then you allow very little water to splash onto her arm... to check if water temperature is ok for her. Once she's ok with temperature, then do a quick (10 seconds) pre-rinse to get entire body, except face & hair, wet. 3. Take moms washcloth away & give her a dry washcloth to hold over her eyes, while you then wet hair & quickly wash hair, & behind ears, then rinse it. 4. Pull wet hair back away from 'moms' face & wipe her face / forehead with her washcloth to stop water from getting in her eyes. 5. Put soap on moms washcloth & give it to her & tell her to wash her front / chest / breast. While she's preoccupied, you wet another washcloth & quickly wash her IN THIS ORDER: neck, back (not bottom), chest, under breast, abdomen, arms, armpits, legs, feet, horizontal skin crease between lower abdomen & upper thighs, pubic area (where hair is), perineum (where you urinate / pee from & vaginal area), buttock cheeks, lower buttock & rectum (where stool/bowel movement comes from).
*Rinse washcloth(s) & add more soap to it as needed.
6. Rinse body, with shower head, in same order as above / as you washed body. 7. Turn main water valve off. 8. Quickly give her one towel to wipe her eyes & face. While she's doing that, quickly drape one towel over her back, one towel over chest, one towel or her thighs, & one towel over her hair. Then proceed to dry her hair, then back, chest, abdomen (remember under breast & skin folds), pubic hair, legs & feet. 9. Take towel off her head & wipe off shower floor, where she will be walking out to reduce chances of slipping. 10. Wipe bottoms of her feet with towel. 11. Remove all towels from her body (can leave one on her back if desired). 12. Assist her out of shower & to nearby place to quickly dress.
*The entire time brag on her, thank her, encourage her... Do things that will make her smile (tell jokes, be silly, sing, talk about good old times,... but remember sometimes she may just want it to be quiet). Try to be observant & aware of what is working & what is not & adjust your approach as needed. What works one time might not work another. During 'shower time' keep calm with a cheerful encouraging attitude no matter what happens. Later, reassess how things went, what you can do to make things go better next time...
P.S. The extra washcloths are for if when you wash the rectum area, & there is poop on the washcloth, so instead of trying to rinse it out, you throw it in corner of shower & grab a clean one to continue washing rectum area & repeat that process until all is clean. You'll have time later to collect all wet towels & washcloths & do laundry.
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I take my mom to get her hair washed only at an inexpensvie salon. Also, an occasional pedicure so her feet and legs not only get washed but massaged and moisturized.
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Okay, I want to provide a different perspective. I am over 70, over the last 5 years, I have come to hate showers. The water on my skin is disturbing; tub baths are okay and so are sponge bath.I don't have any form of dementia, My sister who is a bit younger feels the same way. Your mother may not like showering for a very real and valid reason. Encourage your mother to do frequent (daily) and thorough sponge bath supplemented with weekly tub bath. I grew up without showers and we did not take daily baths.
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So good to hear this isn't an uncommon issue for caregivers..My mom was offered a home health aid for assistance and blatantly refused any help in her..She has no dementia at all, is just use to being self sufficient and independent her entire life..Completely unwilling to agree to bathe and wash her hair..We have purchased new clothing to replace the worn, stained, and too small items she has.. Again, she just chooses to wear the shoddy items and makes excuses for not wearing the new items.. She wears diapers, not because she is always incontinent, but because its easier to be prepared..Three UTI's, one putting her in ICU for 4 days septic, and she still don't feel the need to bathe.. Short of having her Dr. intervene at her next appointment, I have no idea what to do..She will only tell him what he wants to hear and not follow through..
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They get afraid to get in the shower. When my Mom started this I would help her with the sponge bath and wash her hair in the kitchen sink. I would set it for her and style it too. You just have to be insistent. I used to tell her she smelled and that usually did the trick. Rub lotion on her and pamper her. When she is clean compliment her and if you have other family there have them do the same. If she has dentures, have her remove them and clean them for her as well. My Mom said she was doing this but was not.
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Is your Mom having problems with balance?
Does she have any type of Dementia?

the balance problem might be solved by getting her a bench or chair, with a back, that she can sit on to take her shower. Much more stability than holding on to a grab bar, if they are there.
Also if the floor is slippery you might want to try the "water shoes" that she can wear in the shower that will provide a bit more grip as well as cushion her feet a bit.

If she has Dementia there is a lot to taking a shower.
Just a few things...adjusting water temp, getting in, removing clothes, stepping in, then getting wet (more on that in a moment), getting soap, a wash cloth, lathering, rinsing, washing hair, rinsing, stepping out, drying off......it is a lot to remember..what to do and when. 
And the getting wet part..I was told by a Physical therapist that visited my Husband, the shower is scary. The water hitting the face, head and trunk area of the body is very vulnerable and it is frightening to have the water in the face. After that I began with my Husbands feet then legs and worked up from that. I never had a problem with him in the shower following that method.

It is possible that someone else may have better luck. CNA's are trained as are other caregivers and they may have "a way" that works that you don't. (there is also possibly a mind set that she does not want a family member seeing her naked)

If having someone else come in is not possible and you are not having any luck with a chair or bench there is nothing wrong with a bed bath as long as it is done correctly and all areas are cleaned and dried properly.
As with most things in life pick your battles and give in once in a while.
Also while we have it in our heads that a daily shower or bath is good as a person ages and becomes less active a full shower or bath is not necessary and often will remove oils that are protecting the skin leaving the skin more vulnerable to irritation, and drying out. Keeping the "peri area" clean and dry is the most important objective.
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Everyones answer is right, and I had the same situation with my Ma,. I had tried to work out what it was, and think sometimes they forget how to shower and too embarrassed to say what do I do. With my Ma originally when she was still in a village unit, her visiting carer managed to get her to shower in the afternoons. They spoke about it, and heated up the bathroom, chose the new set of clothes and then without asking was taken to the bathroom and shower turned on.That was the cue and the rest was easy for the lady. In the rest home it seems she went 6wks refusing to have staff shower her which was terrible as she has loose bowel motions and no one had cleaned her up. They also didnt call me as I could have gone in and done it. At the new rest home, she refused for a week so I went over, told her why I was there [ I am now a stranger to her] and we went and had it, and she hasnt been a problem since. I suggest you let them choose the towel to dry with, the time to do it, and then put the clothes out....
we dont ask would you like to come for dinner now, its said, "your dinner is on the table" and that they can cope with. So try that approach.
Which is what the aides/carers do.
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My mom recently passed away, but she went through this phase also for the last almost 2 years, we had a CNA come help with them for a short time she would take them but then refused. We had to switch her to medicare and have a CNA come 3x's a week to give her a sponge bath. I would give her one when they wouldn't come or couldn't come. But as far as shampoo the best suggestion is dry shampoo as often as needed. We had to use that ALOT Dove has a very good one at a great price. My mom had a Foley and oxygen and she just had given up on cleaning. But you have to try anything and everything even if it means as the child you do it I know it sucks but sometimes you just have too. My mom was mean as a snake due to COPD and being a co2 retainer but I was able to get her to stay clean. Just offer alternatives that's all I can say from experience. Do the best you can to talk them into it and keep trying because depending on age and condition a UTI can cause dementia like symptoms if she gets one so if she continues to refuse watch for those, seeing things, agitation, delusional. That's the best advice I can offer. If you don't have Medicare for your mom look into it and it can help a lot with getting CNA's from home health care places around your area and they pay everything. Talk with your mom's Primary and they can help you also. Good Luck !
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I'm all for doing what the nursing home did with my foster dad because they cleaned him up. I'm all for just picking the person up and putting them in the shower and making them clean up. Sometimes this is absolutely necessary when you deal with an absolutely stubborn person when all else has failed and this is the only option
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If your mother is suffering from dementia, she may feel that water hurts her. Have you tried bathes? If a bath isn't doable, try wash clothes that don't need to be rinsed. Also for washing her hair, they have caps, complete with soap that also don't need to be rinsed. This will alleviate the showering and keep her calm and clean.
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There are great answers and as a caregiver in the past, we experience the bathing problem quite often. It is true that having a family member take care of their hygiene may make them feel embarrassed or even inadequate.

First make sure the shower is safe with grab bars and perhaps a seat. The response about the shower head is great because people do not want a stream of water hitting them. Finding an outsider (not a family member) will be a good idea because it may help them feel more independent (believe or not) because it allows them to openly share their feelings without being judged.
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When daddy got so bad with Parkinson's, he was humiliated to have mother (or heaven forbid!) one of us daughters bathe him. Mother got in home care 3x a week just bathe and shave him. I know that I would go see him almost daily and always comment on the clean shaven face--and the smell of Aqua Velva that he always used. He never "loved" the aide helping him, but he did realize it was necessary.
Mother, on the other hand, will strip naked for all the world to see and would let my BIL bathe her. She has absolutely no sense of propriety about that. She can still shower herself, and although she's not showering daily, (big deal--she never breaks a sweat!) she would LOVE some young hunk of and aide to bathe her. Sorry, mom, they're sending a woman.

In my experience, if gentle encouragement (many elders are terrified of falling in the shower, or on any wet surface) and a lot of warm towels and sweet talk go a lot further than demanding. BUT...sometimes you have to be tough. (sigh)
AND yes, you do have to keep the "private parts" scrupulously clean. UTI's, sores, etc can pop up so fast when urine or fecal matter are not cleaned well.
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I went thru the same thing with my brother. During respite stays he was able & willing. One day taking me on a tour, the bathroom being a 5 star for a handicapped or memory impaired, I asked him, "Don't you love this bathroom?" I noticed a tear when he said, "Yes." That was my call to do a bath over-haul for him & safety concerns forever. It seems with age, illness & memory concerns most prefer a shower, no tub is really or rarely needed. Stepping over a tub is scary & difficult. They seem to be a past for facilities as well. They are slippery, a big safety concern. A shower with bars, built in seat, shower head & hand held wand along with water faucets for sink & shower that are set to temp controlled (in case they do touch) is a must. I kept our re-do simple, stuck to a budget, comfort & safe was my goal. Initially I still heard no or fibs. Great I thought. I did have to call for "professional troops" got lucky the 1st day. I followed her lead. I am proud to say, 6 years later, it's working. I also know that no is a forever word. Right decisions & reasoning are gone. Consistency, routine & structure is part of the "new normal." ALZ at work! It has to be followed, same old/same old works. If you have the $, can find "great help" go for it. If you are "it" it will become exhausting, doom & gloom. I'm on a mission right now to find the "right fit" for my brother, not easy due to his "feisty" self. He does well with "a take control person." I got it down to a science but my "can't" is on the horizon. There is dignity, kindness, respect to consider as well. Care & home works but has to be done right for your mom & you! Trust your choices, stay strong & focused. Love does prevail. Good luck & blessings.
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This one is a common and tough challenge to tackle. This is one area that I had to really work on not sweating the small stuff. When mom moved in with almost 4 years ago, wow time flies! anyway, she smelled so bad I was gagging. Her clothes hadn't been washed in who knows how long! I had to wash her clothes several times to get the smell out of them! It became obvious that she had not showered in years at that point. We know this because she moved into a new apartment years ago and everything was new including the shower and that shower had been barely used.
So, I brought in outside help, I tried all the tricks mentioned above and then some, and nothing worked. So I resorted to sponge bathing one section a day. She has been incontinent now for probably a year at least so that area gets cleaned multiple times a day.
I now use a product from Norwex which is a bathing cloth that you use warm water and that's it. No soap. It works great. It works so great that I use the cloths myself. It takes a little getting use to, not using soap, but my skin is thanking me because I have high sensitivity to anything I use on my skin. It was a win for both of us. Love the product. They also have a bath mitt which is what I use. The cloths also exfoliate so it really helps with the dead skin cells that mom seems to have an overabundance of (lol).
Hang in there, persistence and creativity will pay off :) Take care of yourself.
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My mother in law was exactly the same, resisted anything her son said, lied about bathing herself or washing her hair. It was obvious that she was not cleaning herself at all. She is in a retirement home but they have aides that will assist with things like bathing. So her son got them to come on tues and thurs to bathe her. She does not resist, goes right n with them and does what they ask! I really think it is the closeness of the person that is embarrassing. My mom is still able to care for herself but she has said that if it ever comes to that she does not want me to bathe her and I should call a home health aide.
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I think sometimes people are just embarrassed to have a family member cleaning them, over a stranger. I had a hard time with my dad for a while, but I also found he's more cooperative with a shower right before we go out, a hand held shower is almost a must. He also has to be transferred from chair to wheelchair, bed to wheelchair, to chair, etc... So I'm able to get him a shower every other day or so after his usual morning bm because he's already right in front of the shower. He does complain and tries to talk me out of it, but after word he feels better.
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I use the incentive of an outing. I plan something for us to do, say like going out to lunch. I let him know we are going early in the day, I talk about it a bit. Then after about an hour I tell him we need to get ready to go out. I take him in his room, pull out his bathrobe and flip flops, he doesn't like to be barefoot. He will undress himself and put on his robe. I check to make sure everything is off, show him his towel, get his water going if he wants me to. I go out of the bathroom, go back and listen when I hear that he is in I will go in and make sure he has a soaped up washcloth. I go back out and take away his dirty clothes and put out all clean for him. I am fortunate that dad wears a "uniform" this makes it simple for replacing worn out clothing. To those whose parent doesn't I suggest that you keep an eye out for the same clothing or something very similar to replace a worn item a piece or two at a time. You could also sit down with your mom and a clothing catalog, look at with her to see if there is something she likes. Fill out the order form with her and order it. Make a celebration of the day it arrives, shower included to put in her new outfit. Do things like this help you ask? Yes they do and it beats the struggle. I highly recommend a website www.alzheimersreadingroom.com it has helped me immensely to deal with issues as they come up. I visit it frequently to refresh my solutions.
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I am so glad this came up today! My Mom is 90 and has been in AL for 14 months and hasn't had a bath or shower since we moved her in! We just turned it over to the staff there so I'm hoping they can get her to get back in the shower! I've read that with Dementia patients, that is common. She is a very private and modest woman,so my thoughts were that she would fight them on it too! She says she takes sponge baths, but who knows?! I'm going to keep up with this post in case anyone else comes up with a WOW factor that will work for her! If I know her, she will just get mad and sull up and quit talking...for about 30 seconds until she's forgotten about it! :-)
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I definitely agree that having someone other than a family member involved can help. My dad was in assisted living and was refusing to shower. He had a day time sitter. She was able to convince him to have a once a week shower scheduled with one of the male aides at the facility. Nothing I did or said worked. I was so grateful for her assistance.
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I sympathise with you all. It ia almost impossible to get my mum to shower or wash her hair. Her underwear belongs in the bin too - it is torn and none to fresh but she gets irritated if I buy her new ones. I'm sorry to say I did throw hers out & replaced them. It's almost as though she doesn't feel she's worth it anymore. She adores my 12 yr old daughter and I've stooped to getting her to say : Granny I like it when your hair smells nice & clean etc... THAT works temporarily
Amother thing is that she has a craving for sweet things, is piling on weight wearing torn and tight clothes all of which doesn't help. I want to be kind & thoughtful but it is very hard. M
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Shane is right. Sometimes a professional can get the job done.

My dad lived with us and got to a point where he wasn't showering. I tried everything: heating up the house, giving him nice and clean and fluffy towels, running the water so the bathroom steamed up; everything short of me getting in there with him which neither of us wanted. I called his Dr.'s office about getting a bath aide and the bath aide succeeded where everything else had failed. She was in and out like a flash and she trimmed his beard. He looked and felt like a million bucks!
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My mother was like this. Didn't bathe for weeks. We tried everything-shower seats, me (the daughter) appealing to her and telling her I would set her hair and how much better she would feel, etc.
After one of her hospitalizations, she qualified for Home Care along with a Home Health aide to provide hygiene. For some reason my mom listened to this woman and got in the bathtub with minimal pushback using a sliding bath seat where she scooted over into the tub. We had a hand held shower head which was great. It had to be quick or my mom would get restless to get out of there, but it worked. We had to prep the bathroom by running the hot water in there for several minutes to warm it up for her which helped as she didn't like getting cold.
After that we hired an aide recommended through her county's dept of aging. We didn't have to do this very long as she had another episode that she was admitted to the hospital and unfortunately had to be placed in a NH.
My point is sometimes the person will take direction from a non family member with minimal push back, and that's what happened here. Goodness knows she fought me with every excuse in the book.
Go figure!
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I am having the same issue here at home. My mother is not showering or bathing, instead I believe she is taking a sponge bath. Has not washed her hair in weeks. I am at a lost at what to do!
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