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Mom is 85 and in stage 4 dementia.


I know the advice on this site is: it's ok for a dementia/elderly person to shower only once a week. I also read a few other posts about showering. But those posts talk about making the bathroom nice & pleasant- which has no effect on my mom. She doesn't care for music in the bathroom, favorite soap or towels etc.



Mom has not showered in over at least 2 months and has not changed clothes in over 4 days. I can smell the urine and a horrible odor when I'm near her. She feels warm and comfy in her stinky clothes and doesn't want to change even though the heat is at 75*. She, of course, completely denies the odor, tells me to wear a mask or get out of her room.


I try rewards, ie put on a nice movie/ a favorite snack after fresh clothes...she lies "no, I already changed my clothes yesterday , I showered this morning. Im 85 years old - leave me alone".


Today my husband got angry at how she was refusing my efforts to help her be clean and suggested maybe I could try "change clothes first, then lunch." So I tried this tactic but mom refused to eat and sat in her room all day. Obviously I'm not going to try this anymore.


She won't let me brush her hair either and won't do it herself. She's looking very unkempt.


Before the pandemic, I had hired aides from our community. So this lady came yesterday to say hi to mom & maybe coax her into wearing fresh clothes. But mom did not remember her at all and just smiled and said " I already changed/I will change tomorrow"


I'm getting fed up of these weekly battles & mom's stubbornness. If she gets UTI, falls sick..so be it.


How do I not get so involved ? How do I let all these battles slide off my back?


I was so upset today I cried & finished a bag of chips.

Weary, great big warm hug. You sure have been through it with your mom. She is blessed to have you and your husband to help her through this terrible time.

I know that money is the challenge for memory care, I am wondering if you have looked into board and care facilities. In my area they are about 20% of a memory care facility.

I would also encourage you to find some respite. Some place that you can drop mom off for a week or two and get some balance back.

Taking care of a combative parent is probably the hardest thing that anyone will ever have to face. Please take care of you during this time, you don't want to become a statistic.

Absolutely nothing you do or don't do is going to make it "better" for her and make her accept it, so do what you need to do for your well being, she won't remember tomorrow anyway.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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wearynow May 5, 2021
Thank you for the reassuring words. Im putting my welfare first and therefore I'm looking at respite care. I did not know about board& care - I will look into this too. Thanks!
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As capacity starts to dwindle and independence progressively evaporates, some like to retain control in whatever form available - your mother seems to be demonstrating her power over you as it clearly grinds your gears.
I assume your mother changes into pyjamas/nightie when going to bed?
While she is asleep, remove the offending items and keep them hidden in the laundry (or wash them straight away).
Be sure to lay out fresh clothing in the hope she will think nothing of the switch by the morning. Adding a decent dash of talcum powder, scented oils, or even a disinfectant spray to these items prior may improve your tolerance.
Offering a massage, back rub, or requesting to apply medicinal/therapeutic emollients can seamlessly integrate a good wipe over with some cleanser - distraction from the task at hand being the key. I know of nurses who are very skilled in this regard as they are so quick that it's over and done before the client has any chance to resist. There is no time for negotiation so no confrontation arises.
Above all, and sorry to be contrary with XenaJada, try not to show any reaction as this only empowers your mother - simply put in place what you need to maintain harmony and play dumb to any protestation.
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wearynow May 5, 2021
My husband also keeps saying that mom knows this bath battle gets me all worked up and that's why she keeps refusing. to change! I will try harder to be calmer and be very matter-of-fact about this. Thank you for responding.
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Yes keep bringing in an aide.

My Mother went like this in rehab. The staff would offer a wash - "No". Thought she had/didn't need it/same as you described. She preferred to sit there in dirty clothes day after day too.

Seemed to be a mixture of reasons:
* cognition change - memory problems not remembering when last washed
* sensory problems - couldn't see or smell any dirt/soiling
* pride & anger over needing help
* Fear of falling.

The main contributor actually seemed to be her keeping CONTROL.

No reasoning by me or staff could get through, so I learnt the lesson *can't reason with people who can't reason*.

So, after a bit of trial & error, the solution was a triple whammy of;
A Deal + Sneaky + Bossy

The Deal was 3 x week. Poster on wall to tick. She helped make the 'compromise' as she didn't want to wash at all & staff wanted everyday - so every 2nd day was The Deal. *Boom* set in stone now your wash days are Mo We Fr!

Sneaky stuff was once on toilet, start removing clothes. Oh since you are sitting there COLD & undressed, may as well have a NICE WARM WASH.. then you can get WARM again.

Bossy part was having 2 aides turn up at once. Was outnumbered & often just gave in.

At home though, back to square one. Dad not sneaky or bossy so back to refusal. Problem sort of fixed as can showtime for aides & makes less fuss for them 😁.
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wearynow May 5, 2021
I will try...thank you for sharing your story.
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https://dailycaring.com/7-tips-to-get-someone-with-alzheimers-to-take-a-bath/

Above is a link to 7 tips you may find useful.

Watch Teepa Snow YouTube videos on getting elderly dementia patients to bathe.

Consider hiring a caregiver to come in to help with bathing.

Consider placement in Memory Care Assisted Living. There is NO WAY I could deal with my 94 year old mother with advanced dementia at home. But she's a delight to her caregivers over there while arguing every single word I say. They're able to shower her 2x a week, change her clothing daily, change her soiled Depends as needed, etc etc.

Good luck!
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wearynow May 5, 2021
Thank you for all your suggestions. I do fantasize about Memory Care but we cannot afford by private pay. We are originally from India and mom came from there to be with me two years ago. She doesn't have much assets of her own to afford MC here .
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There is a good chance she doesn't like the bathing if she is using a bath chair. She is one of those cold people. Sitting on a bath chair with cold are around her is a miserable bath. If you think this might be the problem, get a small space heater and heat up the room before you take her in.

If that's not the problem, then order some adult wet wipes and tell her to use those. Especially in all the critical areas. A change of clothes and the wipe down should help. I've read here that many dementia people become afraid or avoid water. The biggest and best price for adult wipes, that I've found, are from Sams. Order online. Sam's has a certain level of membership that ships nearly everything for free - well worth it over the course of a year. There are 5 pkgs of wipes per box for about $9. No hauling out of store/in to house. Placed on your front porch. (I will add for those who go for the free shipping membership level: Place several separate orders if you are getting several things. Otherwise they will pack too many heavy things to even get the box into your house. I do large Tide as one order, then 2-3 boxes of wipes, etc to keep the packing boxes light enough to handle.)
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wearynow May 5, 2021
Mom doesn't need bath chair yet and is pretty mobile and independent. I will look into the Sam's wipes - many thanks for this tip.
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First of all, I am so sorry that you are going through this. You can’t say that you haven’t tried because you have tried numerous times in all sorts of ways.

You are overwhelmed and who can blame you for crying. Cry! Your tears are your way of cleansing your emotions. Eat the bag of chips too! Everyone needs comforting sometimes, even if it is unhealthy once in awhile. I have a friend that has a son that has severe autism. She occasionally buys six flavors of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!

Speak to your mom’s doctor. Get a contact number or email for a social worker to help plan for her future care. This will most likely be in a facility. You will be her daughter again instead of a caregiver. You can remain active in her care by being an advocate for her.

Wishing you and your family all the best.
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wearynow May 5, 2021
Thank you so much for your kind words. I understand your friend's emotions too since I work with disabled children in a school p/t. Mom's Dr says I can try respite care and try bribing mom with YT(whatever it takes ) to get her clean. We'll see.
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Did she see u cry?
Next time u cry, let her see it. A lot of times it will get the attention of a dementia patient and she very well may cooperate to get u to stop crying.
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wearynow May 5, 2021
Thank you. She will forget my crying the next day. It's so strange how her brain works. She is obsessed about line drying her saris (we're from India) and will remember that but not the need to be clean
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Perhaps you tell her that if she doesn't shower and change her clothes at least once a week, that you will have no choice but to place her in a nursing facility, as you just cannot take it anymore.
And honestly it may be time to do that anyway, as you know things are only going to get worse. Best wishes.
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againx100 May 4, 2021
I wonder with her level of dementia if it is feasible for her to understand and remember this threat?
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