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Difficulties washing mum


Registered User
Nov 21, 2014
This is the first time I have posted as we are looking for some advice.

My mother-in-law has vascular dementia and lives with us quite comfortably although it is difficult and getting even more so, in particular when it comes to washing her or anything with physical contact. Mt partner is her full-time carer.

We have been prescribed sedatives which we have never used and do not wish to, but she just gets very defensive so showering her or a wash of any kind is impossible which poses hygiene issues for both her and us. Has anyone else encountered this and have any ideas what we could try and do? Even when we have put her in for respite care, the qualified staff have never been able to shower her and when we try to her character changes completely.

Any suggestions welcomed



Registered User
May 18, 2014
Nothing at all, not even help with washing hands and face? Can she sit in front of basin with warm soapy water and wipe herself down with a large flannel with you suggesting where to wipe next, in time she may accept some help. I discovered that my mum just did not want to take her clothes off and so when she accepted my help I was able to split the wash into 2 sections, 1st top clothes off only, wash and dress then repeated with lower areas and often I would get her a bowl of warm soapy water to soak her feet. I realise not ideal and a bit time consuming but it was the only thing she would accept and now we are at the point where mum will take a bath with a seat at least 4 times a week, lots of warm towels always close by. Hair can be dealt with by a visit to hairdresser. Wipes are also useful. Hope you can solve this one. every little task always seems like a battle doesn't it!!!!


Registered User
Nov 21, 2014
Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately she will not even wash her hands or face let alone anywhere else. She is wholly reliant on us and when we ask her to anything hygiene related she hates us for asking. She was due a blood test this week but point blank refused that person touching her.


Registered User
Sep 2, 2013
Hampshire England
This is 'usually' a phase.
With regards to sedative it may affect her mobility and feel sleepy all day.
As Tin suggested - go by stages. When she is using the toilet, gently try, have a damp face towel or a wet hand towel and leave it to her.
There is the question of 'modesty' and try at all costs to keep her covered. There were occasion when I had to give a shower to a client fully dressed, and after finishing it we changed clothes - that was the first step.
Important too is to make eye contact, gentle talking, suggestion and agree with her but at the same time gently try to have the wash/shower done.
Short sentences, don't justify the task to be done or argue with her.
I can only wish the best of luck.
Hopefully she'll be a bit more agreeable soon :confused:
All the best


Registered User
Nov 13, 2014
Swimming Costume

First time I ever tried to wash mum over 4 years ago, I bought her a swimming costume, mainly to save her modesty or my embarrassment. She had been having a 'strip wash' for years before that. She loved the shower so much that after that there was no problem and she has had a shower everyday since.

It's not always that straight forward but it's worth a try.

As with the doctor, I used bribery, one bad thing followed by one good thing. Usually cake and a coffee out somewhere.


Registered User
Apr 4, 2014
Reminising to chang mil thought pattern

Hi Dave13, partner and of course mum in law. This situation came up on many occasions where I worked. People came from the comfort of their own home into a potentially hostile environment ( The Ward ). Smelly, unkempt and other nasty things I will pass on. It is always difficult to get a relative that has always been a private person to accept that they need personal care. I totally agree with the previous posts and would like to add, in situations like you have you have to make her think differently so that you make it so that it is her decision to have a wash / shower / bath. Ways to do this is when she is sitting down doing something that she likes doing, approach the problem from a different angle. start off by asking her to tell you about when she was growing up. Ask her if she had a bathroom in her house. Wait for her reply then ask her to go back a little farther to when she was a little girl. Ask her did she have a bath on the Sunday night before the Monday school day? She should remember that as the long term memory is normally still intact. Asking her such questions will sometimes provoke a good history of the past. When you get her to a place in time that she is happy to talk about ask her to show you what she needed to have the bath or wash. Did she have a clean towel? Was the water hot or cold when she finally got in the bath? Did she bathe with siblings or on her own? Did her mother or father wash her hair? If the answers are a positive Yes, ask her to tell you if she liked wash or bath night. Make it on her terms. try to get her to think that she is still the bass. She does not need to have reality orientation. Bringing her back to normal time and place. Some organisations decorate their homes in different era's. 1940's, 1930's in fact each room could have a different theme. Get her back to a place that she feels comfortable and can express herself. My brain has gone to sleep but I will remember the type of therapy that it is called later. If you are around on TP I will be pleased to think of more ways to coax MIL into the shower or wash. May I suggest that you use a lot of humour. Laugh a lot put funny films on that she liked to watch. And that is just for starters. Please tell me to give it a rest, if I prattle on Hope things go better soon. Oldman x
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