How can I get my mother to have a wash?

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by josephinewilson, Sep 12, 2015.

  1. josephinewilson

    josephinewilson Registered User

    May 19, 2015
    My mother is 85 and recently diganosed with vascular dementia. She has a carer visit once a day to give her medication and check she is eating her meals and I take her out every other day shopping and to get out of her sheltered accommodation.

    Although she can dress herself, make cups of tea and microwave her food,we've noticed in past months she is wearing the same clothes every day and is starting to smell. I've noticed the bath is bone dry with unused towels and soap and I suspect she hasn't had a proper bath/shower for months.

    The carers have managed to get her to change her clothes every few days and I sneak them out to wash them but they haven't managed to get her into the bath, as she either insists she has already had one, or that she has one before she goes to bed at night (around 9 ish) I'm at a loss as to how to manage this -when I mention it, she accuses me of being bossy and that of course she is clean. I am thinking of visiting her around bedtime one evening and telling her to get in the bath to prove she does what she claims - but what if she refuses even then? (The bath is arranged for elderly people and getting in and out physically is not an issue for her; it's accepting that she needs a wash) I can't really force her -well I can - I'm her daughter -I can rip off her clothes and manoeuvre her into the bath but that's hardly going to improve our relationship, is it? :)

    Does anyone have any ideas of some way I can persuade her? Motivating her with fancy soaps and gels won't work as she's always been a plain soap and water, bath once a week person. A bath once a week would be fantastic now, compared to what she obviously has not been doing in recent times!
  2. Bod

    Bod Registered User

    Aug 30, 2013
    There are many different theories, as how to get the person washed!
    The trick is to find the one that works for you.
    Ours, is to run the bath, then say "baths ready", best done just before bedtime. May work in the mornings before getting dressed.
    Warm room, towels, etc. Plus a bit of supervision to ensure all bits are washed!
    Once a week bath night is usually accepted by the elderly, as that was the norm.

    Good luck, let us know what works for you.

  3. CollegeGirl

    CollegeGirl Registered User

    Jan 19, 2011
    North East England
    Try bribery. Buy her absolute favourite food or drink whatever that may be, go round one evening and tell her what you've got but say that she can't have it until after she's had her bath.

    Worth a try. Anything's worth a try, frankly!
  4. Tin

    Tin Registered User

    May 18, 2014
    I had to do this bit by bit, one night offered to wash her feet and legs in a bowl of water, then next night wash her hair in the hand basin and at same time suggest I wash rest of her body, top to toe flannel wash. and when I knew she was used to my help I turned to bribery to get her into the bath, a small glass of bailey's waiting for her when finished.
  5. josephinewilson

    josephinewilson Registered User

    May 19, 2015
    Thanks for suggestions

    Thanks for your suggestions - I guess I will just bite the bullet and one night this week turn up at her bedtime, run the bathwater and see if I can persuade her in. (She's already told me she won't have a bath if I do turn up, but she will have forgotten that by then!) I also like the idea of washing a bit at a time - if the bath doesn't work, my next strategy will be washing arms/feet in a bowl, which won't involve the major procedure of going into the bathroom. I also like the bribery idea, although the only thing I can really bribe her with is that if she doesn't have a bath, I won't take her out to the shops and a cafe - it seems a bit mean - but I'll see how the other tactics go first!
    For me it feels weird because I am new to this role reversal - it's like she is the child and I am the mother - although it was much easier getting my own children (now grown up) into the bath than it is with her.
  6. Raggedrobin

    Raggedrobin Registered User

    Jan 20, 2014
    Good luck with that. My Mum swore she was showered when she wasn't. One theory is that people forget how to wash, and with my Mum she simply didn't recognise what the soap was for or how to use it. I am afraid I never came up with an adequate solution. Mum had previously always particularly washed my Dad, who had dementia, on a Sunday. So I would tell her that it was her turn for a shower as it was a Sunday. Sometimes having that ritual worked, although of course sometimes she would argue with me that it wasn't a Sunday.:rolleyes:

    Some people say some dementia people start to fear water a bit, too. With Mum, I never did manage very well with the washing and now she is in a home it is a delight to me not to deal with it. She refuses baths there but will let them wash her in bits and is now far more amenable to it, as the home has such a rigid routine for doing it.
  7. Canadian Joanne

    Canadian Joanne Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 8, 2005
    Toronto, Canada
    My mother got very smelly also and it was incredibly discouraging. I would ask if she wanted a bath or a shower and sometimes that worked, as she had a choice. My sister ran a bath with lots of bubble bath in it and that worked a time or two.

    Sometimes I got fed up and bluntly told her to smell her armpit or simply told her she stunk. It wasn't a happy thing to do but the few times I did it, it worked.
  8. Witzend

    Witzend Registered User

    Aug 29, 2007
    SW London
    My sister employed similar tactics - it was a case of, 'Come on, you NEED a shower - you smell!' (She did.). And there would be tears and tantrums, but it worked - my sister simply would not take no for an answer. I was with my mother far more (sister lived a 5 hour drive away) and I don't mind admitting I couldn't face the tears and tantrums. But they were always quickly forgotten - there is the odd small blessing to dementia - and I'm sure she must always have felt better afterwards.
  9. lookingglass

    lookingglass Registered User

    Nov 7, 2014
    Hi Jospephine
    I have had exactly the same with my 94 year old mother who will not let anyone help her with washing and tells everyone including the carers she has washed. Frankly she does smell a lot of the time and puts on the same clothes day after day. I take them and wash them as soon as I can but it is hopeless. We have arguments about it and she is very hostile to me about washing and hygiene. The carers can not force her to wash or change her clothes or pads, and it is very very difficult. I have had to accept that she refuses help and put up with it really. She is currently in hospital, and here she is just washed without really having any choice. Honestly it is a relief, but it will all revert again when she goes home. I have no solutions as she can not reason so no bribery or threats make any difference. We just have to live with it. Good luck.
  10. Bod

    Bod Registered User

    Aug 30, 2013
    Is she fit to be living on her own?
    Or might be better in care?

  11. josephinewilson

    josephinewilson Registered User

    May 19, 2015
    Giving it a go tonight bathing my mum

    I took my mum out to the supermarket cafe today (as usual) and when I took her back to her flat I said she has a doctor's appt coming up and she needs to have a shower for the examination - and that I have to fill in a form to tick a box to say that I have seen her have a shower ( I made it all up!) She protested at first, saying she had a shower this morning - taking me into the bathroom to show me a bone dry bath and unused soap and towels. I insisted and said I'll be back tonight, just before her bedtime to run the water for her. She said "I might be asleep!" I said - well you've have to get up again! And then she said "well I might not be in!" (She never goes out without me!) But I left a card saying I will be back tonight, 8.30, to run a shower for her 'doctor's orders' and we parted with her doing one of those teenagery shrugged shoulder tutting.
    I'm really not looking forward to trying this tonight - I'll post back in the forum later to record what happens.:(
  12. josephinewilson

    josephinewilson Registered User

    May 19, 2015

    I made it:)
    She greeted me in her nightdress and dressing gown and was quite acquiescent really. She wandered around a bit confused into different rooms but I directed her into the bathroom reminding her she was having a shower. Then -near disaster! I realised I didn't know to work her electric shower! At first I wondered if it had simply broken as it hasn't been used in over a year, I estimate -none of the lights came on - I checked the fuse box thing - all seemed well- and I was just about to give up when I noticed another switch on the hallway wall which needed to be turned on to make the shower come on - phew!
    She has one of those walk in baths so I turned on the shower and said I'd wait outside while she did it - then it became apparent she didn't realise she had to take off her nightie -so I got her to do that. Then I left her but I left the door open just a tiny bit and saw that she was actually just pointing the shower into the bath but standing outside of the bath! I'm not sure if she was doing that deliberately or if -quite possible - she had forgotten how to bathe. So I went in and told her she had to actually step into the bath, which she did. Then I literally pointed the water over her body, head to toe a couple of times, just a few seconds, and then let her come out and dry herself -which she managed to do, eventually. I think for a first effort it will do - I can build up the length and depth of the shower in future weeks. This was just the breaking the barrier of the first time:)
    Wine o'clock for me now!!
  13. Tin

    Tin Registered User

    May 18, 2014
    Well done, cheers. Poor thing she as forgotten how to do it, now you must keep it going. Afraid it is now another task to add to your list, but once she gets used to you helping her, its not something you will have to do every night.
  14. Spamar

    Spamar Registered User

    Oct 5, 2013
    OH forgot how to use the taps, so I had to put the shower on before he got in ( no problem there, fortunately). But he couldn't switch them off either!
    Memo to self: next time I redesign a shower room, either have a wet room or taps outside the shower!
  15. Slugsta

    Slugsta Registered User

    Well done JW, that wine is richly deserved!
  16. TDA

    TDA Registered User

    Mar 3, 2015
    Same issues here with my mum, new live in carer managed to get her in the bath the other day, but it took her 5 hrs to get mum dressed again (including mum out, up the road in her dressing gown!)

    I realised today that mum had the same clothes on for three days, so ran the bath and we sat in the bathroom for about 25 mins before she accepted getting undressed. She had no knickers or bra on under her clothes.

    The other live in carer is much better at these issues
  17. josephinewilson

    josephinewilson Registered User

    May 19, 2015
    Bathing mum Week 2

    I must say I am so appreciative to have found this forum - it is such a support. Even as I was driving up to my mum's flat to try another shower tonight I was thinking about how I'd at least be able to post an update here and have people empathize:)

    My mum again was very negative this afternoon about my coming round tonight to shower her - I treat her like a baby etc etc but when I got there tonight, she was waiting in her dressing gown and was fairly compliant and pleasant. Lesson learned: moods are quickly forgotten!

    She still insisted she showers herself regularly (untrue) but I reminded her I had to "tick that box on the form for the doctor" (which was my last week's story, that she luckily doesn't remember:) ) So I managed to get her in the bath for a quick soap/sponge/shower and she then dried herself off while I sneaked into her bedroom to steal the clothes she's been wearing for the last week so I can wash them!
    I'm increasingly thinking it's like dealing with a five year old, including telling white lies to get them to do things, using distracting techniques and bribes and threats!
  18. Slugsta

    Slugsta Registered User

    Well done Josephine, it sounds as if you are doing a grand job!
  19. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    South coast
    Well done, I bet you feel pleased now :D
  20. Pear trees

    Pear trees Registered User

    Jan 25, 2015
    You're doing great, and if the little lies stop her from getting distressed they're OK.

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