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How do we win the hygiene battle?

My sisters and I are losing the hygiene battle with my mother, who has Alzheimer's (mid stage). We can't get her to bathe, change her clothes, wear a pad for incontinence or wash her hair. She states either that she will do it tomorrow or that she just did yesterday. If we try to force the issue, she gets very angry. My father passed away 4 years ago and all she wants to do is sit. She literally does nothing and does not want to leave the house for birthday parties of family, holidays, etc. We don't really want to put her in a home and we are trying to do the best we can, but we are stumped as to what to do next.
Status: Open    May 29, 2015 - 03:31 AM

Caregiving, Dementia

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Expert Answers

Feb 02, 2016 - 08:58 AM

Sometimes fear can play a big part in the refusal to bathe. Fear of falling can be managed with a shower chair in the the tub. Fear of water spashing her in the face could be resolved with a hand held shower head that gives her the ability to control the flow. If she has a fear of people seeing her naked, there isn't any law that says you have to be naked in the shower, you could try a rain poncho or cloth robe that you can reach under to bathe her. If her vision is impaired, she might not be able to distinguish where she is stepping, the white might seem like nothingness, and she may be afraid of a fall. I have had families tell me that they got their parents doctor to write a prescription for showering twice a week, which they kept on the refrigerator for their mom to see, and she followed those orders!
Saying 'no' is very common for loved ones living with Alzheimer's. Offering a favorite candy or popcycle if she will get in the tub is okay. She can enjoy her treat while you bathe her, then you can wash off any sticky before getting out of the tub!

Feb 03, 2016 - 12:13 PM

In addition to these great suggestions, I would recommend using distraction tactics to get her in the bathroom (ex: instead of saying "time for a bath," tell her it is time for a "spa", have her bring in some towels or toilet paper in the bathroom to get her in there.) Also, using her favorite smells to trigger the memory of bathing - have her smell her favorite shampoo or soap. Do not over explain, give small, concrete directions and demonstrate what you want her to do (ex: you pretend to take off your shirt while she is doing it). This eliminates some confusion over what exactly she is supposed to be doing. Sequencing becomes difficult and this helps with this.

Wishing you the best!



Jun 07, 2015 - 11:02 AM

It might help to get a Caregiver in a few days a week. Believe it or not they can often get someone to do things that you can not get them to do. Also your Mom may not want you or your sisters bathing her. If she still has some idea who you are.
If you can't get a caregiver in to help with this turn your bath day into a Spa day. Don't focus on A Bath, Washing hair and other grooming needs. Focus on relaxation, a bubble bath maybe hair styling, a manicure and maybe a pedicure.
If you are living with Mom lay out night clothes for her and then go in and take the soiled clothes and replace them with clean ones.
Replace her underwear with pull ups so she has no choice but to put them on. If she comments on them tell her that her other underwear had a hole and you will get others later but she can wear the ones in the drawer for now. Repeat that daily if you have to.

As far as not wanting to leave the house for birthday parties or other gatherings keep in mind these can be very confusing. A lot of people that she may not remember, a location she is not fimilliar with and a lot of noise and confusion. Keep parties small and if possible where she lives so she is more at ease.

You might want to get her evaluated for depression the loss of her husband and Alzheimer's would be enough to make most people a bit depressed.
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