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dad won't accept help for mom with hygiene
Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 11:58 AM
Joined: 5/19/2017
Posts: 30

Mom and dad live alone.  Mom is 92 with dementia; dad, 94, does not have dementia but he is hard of hearing and has problems with getting around because of back problems.  Mom has not had a shower (or bath as far as we know) since before Christmas; has not washed her hair either.  My sister and I often tell dad she needs to do these (have even offered to get her hair done at the beauty shop again but he thinks she still has "curl"; egads dad, her hair looks like a rats nest; and for the shower - she had a cancerous growth taken off her leg last fall and had to keep it dry; but all that is left is a small scab, which dad was treating with alcohol wipes because that is "what the doctor did".)  Dad thinks he is doing his best; but not the best for mom.  Mom does get agitated when offered "help" so we are guessing he is just appeasing her.  Do we press the issue of showering and hair washing?
Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 12:27 PM
Joined: 4/4/2016
Posts: 153

Wow horsecaretaker! That is a handful you have there. Kinda similar to my situation but you parents are more advanced in age. My dmil, is only 84 yo but has stage 6 Alz. She is cared for in her marital home of 61+ years by her husband (my dfil) who is 86 yo and a 24 hour aide. My dmil did not wash for months before we got the 24 hour live in aide. She always would say I can do it myself, if I want a shower.....ahhhh no she can't. Right now my dmil at best has a sponge bath but that involves A LOT of very loud yelling and sometimes hitting the aide and my dfil. She needs to get washed at least a little due to her getting a rash anywhere skin touches skin. She like the house VERY WARM.....I would call it hot so sweating and a rash is what you would expect.

  My question would be....what are your plans for them for the future? Do you have all the legal and financial paperwork in place for them? How do they get other tasks done around their home? I know my dfil would feel very uncomfortable showering my dmil. It has actually worked out better having the aid do this as the aide is the "bad guy" doing all this stuff that she HATES !Oh and we have had to forget about washing my dmil's hair....she would never tolerate it. If you get even a little bit of the ends of her hair wet while sponge bathing her she goes on and on about how her hair is "soaking wet!!". I can't imagine what she would say if we actually soaked it and washed her hair!!


  I know you will get some very good advice here.



Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 2:16 PM
Joined: 9/18/2018
Posts: 9

Hello - Is your sister close enough to where she can go give your mom a shower once a week?  That is what I do for my mom.  They are 5 miles away from me.  It's really not safe for your dad to try and shower her.  It is such a struggle but someone needs to make sure she is kept clean and healthy.
Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 4:41 PM
Joined: 10/9/2014
Posts: 569

Do you know if there are documents appointing someone Durable POA or Healthcare POA?    IMO, the POA should step forward to take action.  If there is no POA, I'd seek consult with an Elder Law attorney, in order to get information on how to get Guardianship.  I would suspect that something is not right  with your father.  If he is not able to see what is happening with his wife and not intervene regarding her hygiene, then, it would tell me he is suffering too.  Regardless, of whether he wishes to appease mom or he is oblivious to the dire need in front of him, it needs attention. I'd treat it as an urgent matter too. I would look very closely at how things are going in the home, so you can explore future care needs.
Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 4:46 PM
Joined: 9/16/2018
Posts: 18

You may want to get palliative care and home health. Home Health will send an aide 2 times a week for showers.
caregiving daughter
Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2019 5:14 PM
Joined: 11/27/2012
Posts: 2024

I would say outside help and if necessary, when spouse is not at home.
Dreamer Lost
Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2019 7:08 AM
Joined: 3/7/2019
Posts: 134

The whole bathing, showering issue with a PWD is a huge battle by itself so can understand your father not being able to bathe your mom. It is time for help. If your mom is still able to get out, you may try taking just your mom out for lunch, say it's a "girls" luncheon then just take your mom to the beauty shop first (don't ask just do it, she may or may not make a scene in public) and then to lunch? I would also definitely look into some home health regardless of what your father says. You may try using the fiblet, that the doctor ordered it (or they will end up in a NH or Adult protective services will come by, whatever fiblet you think will work) since your father seems to see a physician as an expert (this also makes the physician the bad guy and not you). You can say it is for your mom's health that she receive a bath weekly to prevent or clear up any infections? Unfortunately, our parents (dementia or not) often resist change no matter how we try to reason with them and you have to do what you think is best as they are incapable of not only the physical energy needed or the mental energy. Good Luck.
Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2019 7:54 AM
Joined: 3/7/2012
Posts: 2296

Many many a caregiver has struggled with this issue. I think something that we caregivers have forgotten is that its just recently (last 40 yrs or so) that we've all started to shower on a daily basis, sometimes two times a day. So back in the day where our LO were younger it just wasn't heard of to bath / shower daily. So its foreign to them. Yes some bathed daily but it depended upon what you did for a living, etc.

Fast forward to today and its just 'normal' to think of it as a daily thing to do. However, many of our LO's don't need a bath daily, but certainly several times a week simply. As for hair that doesn't have to be done daily, its just what we are used to doing.

None of that will help you get them into the shower. Of course there is always the fear of falling which can be overwhelming. Possibly modesty comes into play. The water hitting them in the face is scary for some. They aren't bathing to upset anyone, they aren't bathing because they are afraid.

I know of one case where the LO refused bathing for quite sometime. How they handled the situation worked for them. When the LO was being helped to dress, prior to getting clothes on - the caregiver just said "what on earth is on your foot? Here lets wash it off." She sat her LO on a shower chair and just turned on the lower spicket - she had a washrag and soap and washed her feet. Then her lower leg - no water spraying anywhere. Then she put lotion on her legs and feet & helped her finish dressing. Several days later they did the routine again - what's this on the back of your leg? type of question. Finally after much much patience she would sit on the shower chair and let herself be bathed - as long as nothing was coming out of the shower spicket. 

Everyone is different, and just because this worked yesterday doesn't mean it will work tomorrow. You've got to be creative.


Posted: Saturday, March 16, 2019 11:02 PM
Joined: 2/9/2019
Posts: 88

Oh, Horsecaretaker, how hard this must be for you! This is indeed a struggle for us.  

(Love the “what’s on your leg?” technique.  Might have to try this!   I have heard of using dry shampoo too, so I will be giving this a try.)

Like others here, I too am concerned about your dad.   There might be some cognitive issues he’s experiencing too.  You mentioned that you think it’s been some months since your mom has showered. Oh my.  Preventing infection, especially UTIs, is important, so you are right to be concerned.

Please let us know how it’s going. . .

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2019 8:02 AM
Joined: 5/19/2017
Posts: 30

Thanks everyone for your concern and advice.  We MAY be making head way.  My sister who lives next door is going on vacation for a week.  She checks in on them (even tho' it irritates mom when she brings "leftovers" to eat; she can still cook you know) several times a week and luckily was available when mom needed the "emergency" hospital trips.  I call every day but live 2 1/2 hours away.  My sister and I signed up an agency to send an aide when my sister is away; hoping that we can then slide into a permanent person to be there every day.  Told dad; didn't go over well (they don't need any help) but we have told him it is going to happen; and  if they are still unhappy about it when my sister returns from vacation, we will stop the service (boy oh boy, we hope he realizes by then that it is needed).  Dad seems to be slipping a little these days in common sense decisions too so the help is imperative.  We are praying all goes well.
Dreamer Lost
Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2019 9:31 AM
Joined: 3/7/2019
Posts: 134

For the aide's continued help when you return, you may want to try fiblets. If your parents concern is about cost, you can say it is "free" covered by Medicare. Others have tried the fiblet that the caretaker "needs" the job and you are helping them out.
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