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  1. #1
    New User
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    Sep 2010
    South West

    How does a son get an unwilling mother into the bath?

    This is proving to be more and more difficult....I have looked after mum for the past three years and this job is now shared between my two brothers and myself... Mum had three sons, all of whom are no longer married... Mother has become more and more reluctant to take her bath... She used to be fine, undressing, having her hair washed etc. Mother was never worried about undressing while we turned our backs, or letting us help her when she needed it. Now however, as soon as you mention her bath night is here, she puts up all the excuses she can think of why she can't get in. Even using her periods as an excuse. Mum is 87 and all that equipment was removed in her 40's... She will put her coat on and go out and scream the place down if we lock the front door until we let her out....We have started bath night at 4pm now so that she can go out in daylight, but she will go out at night as well.... When she comes home the problems start all over again. Hanging on to the stairs for example screaming, and she never used to do any of this just a few months ago....She has slept in her clothes for a long time now, refusing to remove them. She does not wash in the mornings, as the soap is always dry in the bathroom. She does like cleaning her teeth however...
    This raises several questions...What can you do to get people into a bath and change their underclothes? What rights do I have to lock the front door and ignore her screams to go out? What guidelines are there for the amount of persuasion a son can use to get his mother to change and bathe? If the answer is none, then she will not bathe at all. Once she has agreed to have her bath she is fine. She washes correctly, and she is bright and cheerful for the rest of the evening. The problem is getting her to agree to have one. This now takes on average over 5 hours of verbal persuasion. It is getting us all down now.
    Even an outside professional nurse would get the same treatment we do. I am sure.... This is our only major problem with mother at this time...She is otherwise very mobile, enjoys her time going out, walking, pottering in the garden in the summer, feeding ducks etc. But, the mention of taking a bath or undressing for bed, she changes to a different person and can be verbally quite aggressive at the time....
    Last edited by JTB; 15-03-2012 at 04:57 PM. Reason: Extra sentence added re 5 hours of persuasion required

  2. #2
    Registered User Christin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Hello JTB and welcome to Talking Point

    I am sorry to read about your Mother, but pleased you have found TP.

    It can be quite usual for someone with a dementia to refuse to bathe and there can be a number of reasons for this.

    I just want to point you to some links to AS factsheets which may offer you some help.

    Washing and Bathing

    Unusual Behaviour

    I am sure there are many others who have experienced similiar behaviour. It is great that your Mother is able to enjoy her time going out etc

    Very best wishes to you, please let us know how you get on.

  3. #3
    Registered User 2jays's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    West Midlands
    Hmmmmm bathing or not but insisting they have just had one and oh those lovely aromas.....

    Not an easy answer to this one

    Fact sheet might have an answer to this

    There was a thread about this a while ago - might have some help

    Or on a warm day whilst she "gets out"...... Attacking her with a hose pipe

    Thinking of you
    To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone - Reba McEntire
    If only it was that easy - 2jays

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Contact your LA and ask for a Community Care Assessment for both your mother as sufferer and you ( plus brothers?) as carer(s).
    Don't tell any lies but lay it on thick, maybe start a diary of actual events.

  5. #5
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    Feb 2011
    Hello JTB, i know how you feel, my father turns in to a prize fighter when you try to get him washed, and one time he hadnt washed for A WHOLE YEAR. As you can imagine being double incontinent into the bargain didnt make for a pleasant environment. I eventually at the end of my tether physically shoved him in to the shower fully clothed and he had no option but to take his clothes off not before he punched me in the face with all the strength he could muster and bit me so hard i almost passed out. Dads into his 7th year with dementia and in a CH now but he is still the same, he will fight to the death and i mean physically. He will punch, nip, kick,bite, slap, spit, you name it till its done. Once hes dried and clothed he turns back in to a normal person. If you were to see the rage and venom on his face it would frighten you. The CH staff now have a system when if dad needs washed they all run and find something else to do rather than tackle him and its a shared joke between the staff and me. It usually ends up with the one slowest to get away having to do the dirty deed. He actually managed to get the top of the cistern off one time and belt a staff member with it. Theres even a staff member in the home only does backshifts now so she doesnt have to bath my dad! Its a daily fight and thankfully the home carry on regardless, i suppose because hes ok other than that. I tried all the usual ways of persuasion but nothing worked. I even got a male carer to come thinking it was because he didnt like woman doing it but he was the same with the men. 7 years later i still havent found a solution.

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    At the end of the day, not bathing is merely unpleasant so it is not worth turning it into a massive issue with lots of distress. It's quite common and can stem from lots of things, including a fear of water. Alternatives might be things like a good wash or sanitary wipes but if these fail then it is not worth pressing it. Not having a bath might make you smelly but it won't kill you. The only issue that might surface is urinary tract infections but if your mums toilet "hygiene" is poor, and it likely is, then those will happen anyway.

    The same thing with changing clothes, it's mainly unpleasant than anything. Change the underwear as often as you can though.

    I have no answer to the screaming and wanting to go out, other than accompnying her for walks until your mum is tired. There's probably something upsetting her that she can't articulate (I suspect it might be that she no longer recognises her own home and is trying to "go home", which might simply be a familiar place of safety and protection and thus often refers to a childhood home)

  7. #7
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    Jan 2012
    The only things I could suggest are that I used reverse psychology on my mother; with clothes washing, if I offered to do washing or suggested something needed washing, she would hit the roof or lie and say she had identical clothes, one set being in the wash etc etc. So one day I opened a cupboard and said 'oh while I am here I will take that coat and wash it like you asked me to'. She doesn't like to admit to memory loss so she thought she had already agreed to it. This has also worked in the CH re washing clothes; they said she wouldn't hand her laundry over, so I suggested saying to her that they had come for the washing that she had asked them to do and it worked like a charm, as it made her feel she had some control. She is very naughty about washing herself though! Would it in any way be worth a try to say to your mother, you asked me to run your bath and its all ready for you - I know that sounds very simplistic but it may just work if she thinks she suggested it?

  8. #8
    Registered User Kathphlox's Avatar
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    Dec 2009
    That sounds like a very good approach dogcrazyuk

  9. #9
    Registered User
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    Feb 2012
    My mum is 68 and early stage 6 AD and widowed. I have exactly the same problem and I am a only son. I have tried everything I can think of and have read all the tips and advice. My mum is currently on month 4 without any wash that i am aware of.
    This is currently my biggest problem to resolve. I cannot get her to change her clothes either which she sleeps in. nice thoughts though Nebiroth.
    the only thing I can offer at present is to try the angle 'that its not safe for you to have a bath alone and I am only here to assist.'

  10. #10
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    My father is the same. I was told that this happens and it's almost like a water phobia. In the first stages, my father would happily live and sleep in the same clothes for weeks if I'd have let him. He would have a bath because he wanted to, every few months or so - was in there for hours and always came out much happier than when he went in so my mother and I had a pretty good idea what he was doing in there as well as washing! - but the only day-to-day way I could keep him clean was to change his clothes on the mornings he went to the day centre and pray no-one went too close.

    We then moved on to assisted bathing and he could sometimes be shamed into having a bath by the woman who was there to do it saying that she didn't get paid if he didn't have a bath (not true but it worked, sometimes) or the people who ran the centre talking him into it; two older ladies gamely talking him through every aspect for maybe an hour as I sat and howled as I was so tired and upset and embarrassed, but, again, it only worked sometimes.

    He was the same in the nursing home but that was because the room was very big and so not very warm, the water was always blood temperature - they weren't allowed to have it warmer than that - and there wasn't much of it either, and then I pestered for six months for him to be able to have a bath in one of those ones you step into and then it reclines so that he was completely covered and one of the carers let him have more water and hotter water and let him soak a bit which was more like his baths at home which was what he was used to and wanted but he could still be awkward even then.

    Now he has a bath at a community centre. It's a chair lift thing and no assistance as I let him bath himself but for someone who couldn't tell you what they had for lunch ten minutes afterwards, he can remember that building so as soon as we get into the car park he starts with his "I'm not having a bath" and so it goes on, every couple of minutes all through us queuing to pay at the desk "are we trying to ...?" - it's a well worn routine, akin to spelling V-E-T in front of pets! - through to the room, as I'm undressing him, as he's sitting in the chair being hoisted, sometimes even as he is actually in the bath! I just agree with him that he's not having a bath and we carry on! I wash his hair, give him a wet shave and wash his back and then leave the rest to him. Usually, once in the water - nice smelling shower gel from M. and S. - and no cold water so it is a reasonable temperature - don't worry, I do the 'baby' elbow test first!!!!! - he is fine, and afterwards will grudgingly agree that he feels much nicer having had the bath but oh the drama.

    Bath time tomorrow morning - something to look forward to! He always needs a nap in the afternoon, and so do I!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    You could try Social Services to get someone to come in to do this for you. My Mum is not keen on washing any more either, Resists the bath it if I try, enjoys it when she's in there, but I can rarely persuade her, and I physically struggle to lift her out of it. But, she seems much more compliant with the care worker, who wasn't actually booked to do this, but she just took control and gives Mum a strip wash in the bathroom every morning before she helps her get dressed. No more smelly nanny, and Mum seems to think it's not something she can object to, which is a result!

  12. #12
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    JTB - I really think it is because it is all to much trouble to get bathed. For this reason I take my mum usually every 10 days or so around to the sit in bath that is available for everyone in the sheltered housing where she lives and it seems to be successful. At 97 she just cannot manage her own bath now. With hindsight I sould have had a walk in shower put in a few years ago but the upheavel would be too much for her now.

    She does wash (probably in a fashion) each morning - the carers help. She never smells so for that I am grateful.

    Maybe you should try getting her to have a good wash down (especially if you can get some outside help - it is amazing what they will do for others ).

    It seems to have got to be a trauma and that cannot be good for any of you.

    Best Wishes


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