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Dad's passing was sudden though he's been in declining health for years. Mom hasn't left the house in several years and stopped bathing about a year ago. Short-term memory is quite bad and I'm sure she has undiagnosed dementia. Her sass and wit are firmly intact. Won't go to doctors and used to be a social butterfly. She is physically in good shape and just turned 85. She knows Dad is gone though she asks every day how he's doing, he's not coming back, is he.


She stopped leaving the house about 5 years ago to take care of Dad who had limited mobility. She is not a physical danger because she thankfully has no desire to drive or cook, and doesn't wander from the house. She snacks and nibbles throughout the day so has an appetite.

People people are afraid of slipping in the shower and get a shower chair maybe upgrade her shower to where she has a half a step high with just a small lip home health Care can send a home health aide to help her get in and out of the shower a couple days a week that's what we have through Medicare my mother-in-law before she was put in the bed they sent one and also maybe a medical seat for the toilet so she can hold on when she sits to go to the bathroom there's a lot of things at medical supply stores that you can look into that Medicare will pay for if you can get her evaluated with her needs and maybe even someone to come in a couple days a week to make sure she's eating and taking her meds do smaller meals with smaller portions like fruit in the morning and a yogurt a sandwich and chips for lunch small amount of meat and maybe two small amounts of vegetables.
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Reply to Clsue63
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Likely she's completely 'nose-blind' to her own smell. Mom certainly was/is.

She got that shower before the wedding, for which we're grateful--but she hasn't showered since then. And I would be surprised if she takes a shower for the rest of the year.

Honestly, the only thing that worked was YB being VERY honest with her "Mom, you really, really need a shower. And you need to wash your privates and underarms. I won't take you to the wedding if you aren't clean". I KNOW she was hurt, but it was necessary.

Also, if your LO's living area is not clean (esp. bathroom trash going out everyday) the smell will begin to overwhelm you. Sadly, even mom's furniture smells bad. My YB replaced her lamps and the lampshades were so stinky we threw them away.

On the flip side, my MIL is SO CLEAN her house smells amazing. She bathes every other day (she must have help, she couldn't get in and out of the tub alone)--but bottom line, she and my mom are the same age and one smells awful and one smells clean as can be.

It's a common problem. People will be kind and not say anything--but they will smell her and think she's not being cared for. It's a hard thing to deal with.
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I find that when someone is good-natured and it sounds like your mom is, that being honest is pretty effective. Tell her that she has to take a shower or a bath and that you're going to help her get ready for the service so she can look good.
I've often used the little white lie of 'the doctor said you have to take a shower' to my homecare clients who refused to do it.
You say she hasn't left the house in five years. When someone is in the house for that long they will neglect their own hygiene and many other things. Also, going out to the funeral service may be very hard for her and cause serious anxiety. Would it be possible to get her cleaned up and maybe try taking her out somewhere before the service? To see how it goes.
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Hi what you may want to try with her is getting her to a quiet safe place with no slip and fall hazards like in a sitting place. have towels and wash cloth near by and distract her with conversation while attempting to wash her.
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Mom hadn't showered in months.

We had a family wedding and YB simply sat her down and said she was going to take a FULL body shower, as she smelled awful and would ruin M's day.

Mom's not demented, she just hates the hassle of a shower. YB didn't 'help' her, but he stood outside the bathroom and made sure she didn't fake a shower, she scrubbed head to toe.

He said she peeled like a lizard afterwards as he dried her off. You can't go a YEAR without bathing. Well, you can, but, please.

So--the wedding was 6 weeks ago and she hasn't bathed since then. Smell is unbelievable. We can't even get her to hand wash her privates, that alone would deal with 75% of the smell.

And, no, she will NOT allow someone else to come in to help. Ever. It's a hill we're choosing to not die on---but wow, I hope my kids make sure I don't reek when I am 91.
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You know I always wondered why people did not bathe. Now I am older, 71, there are days that it seems a chore to get one. But I am an everyday shower person so I get up and get one.

With people suffering from Dementia, this seems common. Not my Mom but I never asked. I just said "time to get a shower". And she went along with it. For a while I had an aide. She was a bus aide and when her shift was done got dropped off by the bus where her car was not far from my house. She came, bathed and dressed Mom and I paid her for the hour. Mom also knew her.

My daughter, RN in NHs, says you need to make them think they made the decision. "Mom, don't you want to smell pretty and have your hair fixed nice for Dad?" Hopefully she will say yes. I really feel they become childlike. So you approach them as u would a small child who will not get a bath.

I suggest using a shower chair or anything you can put in the shower. Use a handheld shower head. This way the water is not hitting her in the face. Rinse with water, suds her up, and rinse again. Mom allowed me to wash her hair. Use baby shampoo. I had her put her head down. Washed quickly rinsed and had a towel handy to dry her hair as well as I could. I had the bathroom warm, a/c can chill them. I had Moms underwear in the bathroom. It was too small to fully dress her. Do it as quick as you can. I had bars in my bath. So I had mom stand facing the wall and spread her legs slightly. Then I used the handheld to wash "that" area. I used no soap.
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sullyba Jul 11, 2021
We have a shower chair and handheld low-pressure shower head. She's still sharp and sassy, as I mentioned. Getting her to think it's her idea or go along with anything related to changing her clothes or bathing hasn't worked well in the past. I do appreciate the tips though and will see what we can do. When I've mentioned body odor in the past, or suggested she change outfits, she's done the range of "No, no, no" to "Oh, I should just go upstairs because I smell badly" to "I'll take one later when I feel like it." Trying to be gentle with this now given our collective grieving. Her old self would be mortified to see how she hasn't been taking care of herself.
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Are you absolutely sure it’s a good idea for her to attend “services”?

It sounds as though her sense of his death and being “gone” is a bit fluid. I’d be concerned that a flash of reality after a period of reduced awareness might be very painful for her.

I firmly believe within my own perspective that “sparing” beats “sparring” any old time. The nicest most inviting bath in preparation for being confronted by the irrefutable awareness that a spouse you loved and spent decades with has died doesn’t seem to me to be an appealing trade off, especially since she hasn’t left the house in a very long time.

I have told my children that if (God forbid) my cherished spouse should depart before I do, they are to lie to me liberally and carefully, and allow me to be cozy in my fantasy life until I go to join spouse myself.

Just me of course, but perhaps something you might want to consider.

So very sorry for your families loss and the concerns being raised by it.
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GardenArtist Jul 11, 2021
AnnReid, if you were referring to my comments about the benefits and socialization that can arise from assisted bathing, my suggestion was not for one specific instance.  It was to create stronger bonds between mother and daughter, to facilitate bathing now and in the future.  It was to offer a way that the daughter could comfort the mother and achieve a cleanliness ritual in the process.
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Are you actually staying in the house with her at the moment (you or another family member, that is)?
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sullyba Jul 11, 2021
One of my brothers and I are staying in the house with her right now. Up til now, she and my father lived alone in the house (where they raised 4 kids and 6 grandkids). This is definitely her place. But neither one of us is able to stay long-term. We're working on a schedule where someone is with her evenings/overnight through morning. She actually can be left alone -- companionship and someone to help make sure she eats, and answers her questions, is what we think she needs going forward. And a stranger will be a hard sell right now.
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Your poor mum sounds depressed. Long-term depression affects short-term memory much like dementia (except it is reversible) I can't imagine, given her situation and isolation, that she wouldn't be
Maybe approach it from the angle that she is emotionally exhausted and maybe doesn't see the point in washing anymore. Try and make it a treat, an expensive bubble bath or buy her some nice new clothes and do her hair but help with depression would be the main goal.
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sullyba Jul 11, 2021
I wish she would respond to new treats like that. She doesn't want anything that's "just for her" unless it's ice cream. She won't eat a meal unless she's having a portion of someone else's food. I'm going to try something with clothes to see if her old sense of fashion will kick in as she used to be well put-together every day.
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Try no rinse products.   They're used in hospitals and rehab centers, and in my experience during one hospitalization, I felt refreshed and cleaned.  

Make it a ritual experience; put on her favorite music, have a nice relaxing chat before and after.  The goal is to associate no rinse cleansing with positive social interactions with you.

These are just a few in this line of products:

https://www.thewrightstuff.com/no-rinse-products.html

https://cleanlifeproducts.com/#page

I think though that that I wouldn't raise any issue about "looking her best for the services".   She had a relationship with your father for years; that can be her best memory, but funerals are for survivors to mourn, and that includes people she may or may not have seen, and may not want to.       That's not intended to be critical, just to focus on her needs as opposed to the observations of those who attend the funeral.   And, in actuality, it might be too challenging and emotional for her.  
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sullyba Jul 11, 2021
We do have a shampoo-shower cap that I'm going to try. Thanks for the links, too. I think she'll actually do well at the services -- though we're ready to take her out/home if I'm wrong about it. Going to let her decide that as we go.

Thanks again.
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You may want to hire an aide to come bathe her, as often folks are more open to having strangers helping them bathe, then family.
You may also have to present it to her that if she does not take a proper bath/shower prior to the services, that she will have to stay home, as she can not be in public the way she is.
Just make sure that she has grab bars, slip proof mat, shower bench, and any other equipment that will make her feel safe, as often it's a fear of falling that keeps folks from wanting to get in the shower/bath.
Here's hoping everything goes well with getting her cleaned up, and I'm sorry for the loss of your dad.
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sullyba Jul 11, 2021
Thanks for the insights. We'll try for an aide but she's been reluctant to admit needing any kind of help ever. We did see how differently she responded to caregivers we had with Dad after we brought him home on hospice. She didn't interfere with their work, surprisingly, or antagonize anyone (except when they called him "Handsome". She would say, "His name is Jack, not Handsome." :P)
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