Tuesday, February 10, 2009 Rob1, Community Member, asks

Q: My mom refuses to bathe or shower.

My mom refuses to bathe or shower. She also does not want to change her clothes . She will sleep in the same clothes for days. My dad is the sole caregiver and he is refusing help.  When I come to visit I try to convince her to clean up. This suggestion only make her agitated and more resistant. At this point I have not forced her . What can I do to convince her to bathe and change her clothes.

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Answers (6)
Christine Kennard, Health Pro
2/11/09 9:21am

Hi Rob1

 

It is very difficult to see a loved one change their patterns of behavior as Alzheimer's disease progresses. Good hygiene is important to health and it is important that some minimal standards are maintained so that she does not start getting infections or sores.

 

You also have to, perhaps, accept that her levels of distress will sometimes override the need to change her clothes or have a wash before she goes to bed. If someone refuses you can try a few different things. For example:

Try asking her again later. She may be less agitated in the morning than in the evening.

See if she is more cooperative if she is assisted by a woman, (maybe your partner could try to help).

Does she like to shower or take a bath, go swimming? A change of clothes can be given afterwards.

Music, food snacks as rewards may help make her be calmer during her wash/clothes change.

 

Presumably she does change her clothes and wash sometimes with your father's help. What does your father think? Is he resistive to your ideas of hygiene or does he just not want others taking over his role? It can be very hard for some people to have strangers, professional caregivers, in their home helping out.

 

If she is agitated all the time then it maybe would be helpful to get a doctor to evaluate health risks and think of some mild sedative medication. However if you are not there on a regular basis and your father does not see the need for medical help you do have a problem.

 

Maybe you just have to accept the situation unless you feel your mother is at risk through neglect.

 

Christine

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2/11/09 10:38am

Hi Rob1,

 

I wanted to let you know that you are not alone.  I'm glad you came here for help.  There is a great resource called: Bathing Without the Battle.  It was designed to help caregivers in a nursing home setting, but the suggestions and strategies will work in a home setting as well.  I highly recommend going to the website and checking out the tips that they have.

 

Katrina

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C LOPEZ, Community Member
2/12/09 6:36pm

ONLY GIVE HER A CLEAN TOWEL AND CLOTHES.  MAYBE YOU HAVE TO HELP HER PUT HER CLOTHES WHEN FINISHED WITH THE SHOWER.  REMEMBER NOT TO SCREAM AT HER. SHE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THAT WAY.  (MY MOTHER IS ON THE FINAL STEP OF ALZHEIMER)

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Smilinghigh, Community Member
2/12/09 7:38pm

Wait a hour or two then ask again or if she in the early stage ask her why?. some time i you can find put why not? You give them a reason why she should. This only work in the early stage the long someoner has it the harder it is to change someone thinking, but of you can be on the same thought as some one is the easlier it is to work with them.

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Amy, Community Member
9/ 3/09 1:20pm

My Grandpa was the same way. He had dementia. We used numerous bargaining tools for encouragement. He like his whiskey ALOT so that was our best tool. Hey gramps, " After your shower, you can have a whiskey drink." It worked most of the time. Also, never ask if they are ready to shower because the answer will always be NO. Just say come one mom/dad its time for your shower. We occassionally would hire someone to give the shower when all other attempts failed. Gramps was very mindful of money. It usually worked when the helper would say," you know Mr.-- You paid me for this so you might as well get your monies worth. " I hope this helps you some as this is an extremely difficult disease for family members to deal with. And remember, once they are agitated, there is no use trying as it will only increase the level of agitation.  Amy-owner, Much like Family Home Services, LLC serving the elderly in the greater Cincinnati area.     http://muchlikefamily.com

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heartsincider, Community Member
10/28/10 6:18pm

REFUSING TO BATHE OR SHOWER - Talk to your doctor to verify, but generally, the elderly patient may have a temporal lobe lesion, or a depression/anxiety disorder.  Sometimes they will respond to a medication for the particular disorder.  The Alzheimer's hospitals will make sure they get a shower, wash their hair, and put on clean clothes everyday. 

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By Rob1, Community Member— Last Modified: 01/16/14, First Published: 02/10/09