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hygiene issues

lizzybean

Registered User
Feb 3, 2014
1,366
Lancashire
Izzy, I wasn't the least bit bothered that I only got one reply, to be honest I knew the answer, was probably hoping 1/2 doz people were going to say "no, you don't need to bother yet"

Not something I'm relishing but I know when I start it can only get easier (from my point of view)
 

spuddle

Registered User
Mar 13, 2014
118
thank you all so so much for your posts and insights. to comment on a few points.... im pretty sure she is bathing daily, i recently stayed for a week as she was ill (starting donepezil) and she often doesn't answer the phone as she is in the bath. now as for using soap, i do wonder.. there is a pretty shrivelled dry piece of soap in the bathroom which im suspecting doesn't see water often.... maybe she gets out of the bath thinking that she has washed when she hasn't. she has lots of lovely soap and bubble baths (nice gift sets and presents she has collected over time) so buying her new stuff wont help. i only realized this week that her dressing gown/bath robe really really ponged so putting that on after a bath wouldn't be helping things. needless to say it has now been washed.
i love the suggestion of finding 'marks' on clothing so they need washing... fantastic idea which i will definitely use.

having read your posts i actually feel very grateful for how things are at the moment. no incontinence and mum is as fit as a fiddle as far as physical health goes.
mum also has never worn deodorant (and has never had bo), i bought her a spray deo, which she didn't like, so i tried a roll on, which she didn't like... just refused to use it and it now graces the coffee table.

to those who are having difficulty bringing the subject up, ... i didn't say anything for a while , not wanting to upset her, but it got to the point where it was really bad. i started gently, just hinting that she didn't smell very fresh, and how hot it was etc. the gentle hints didn't seem to work so in the end i have been quite brutal. as for the washing, again i started gently, suggesting things needed washing... now i just go around the house sniffing all her clothes and putting them in the wash before she has chance to complain about it. she gets bothered for a moment and then forgets so it seems to be the best way for me.

thanks again for all the info, and i hope this thread has helped others as well
 

nicoise

Registered User
Jun 29, 2010
1,806
Not washing was one of the first signs my mum showed of her dementia; and as she had always been so fastidious about bathing or showering it rang alarm bells with me... And her sense of smell had gone too - again, it seems to occur frequently with dementia :eek:

We never did really overcome the problem, and so in the end I felt there were other issues more pressing to tackle. I bought baby wipes for a simple clean of nether regions, and tena lady pads to try to catch the worst of little accidents to try to reduce the clothing, chair or bed soiling where possible. And encouraged visits to the hairdresser for hair washing, and manicures to keep on top of grubby fingernails.... I found that direct confrontation didn't help at all, and learned to get round the issues by trying to make it a pampering session instead. ;)

If you use the Search box at the top right of the page, you will find several older posts on the topic - it really is a very common issue, and I suspect the majority of carers have had to deal with it, with varying degrees of success!
 
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Sue J

Registered User
Dec 9, 2009
8,035
she often doesn't answer the phone as she is in the bath. now as for using soap, i do wonder.. there is a pretty shrivelled dry piece of soap in the bathroom which im suspecting doesn't see water often.... maybe she gets out of the bath thinking that she has washed when she hasn't. she has lots of lovely soap and bubble baths (nice gift sets and presents she has collected over time) so buying her new stuff wont help.
I used to shower one or twice daily before I became ill. Since then I only bathe. I often spend a long time in the bath because my brain gets 'stuck', I also then realised I wasn't necessariy washing either if the soap wasn't nearby or I was just unable to 'think' or process thought. I too have quite a few sets of bath stuff but didn't/couldn't use any of that. If the mind also goes back to a childhood time, when such things were not available or ever part of daily life this could also play a part. I now try and set a timer when I get in and hope I hear it ring, but if I don't I usually know I have set it and will wonder if it has gone off so will investigate which will also get me out of the bath.

If I had a carer at that time, or now, I think it would have benefitted me if someone had run a bath for me and put some bubble bath or something in. This would have helped me to recognize what bubble bath was again, and also obviously help me keep clean. It would also, of course, make me aware of my deficits - not having carers and living alone - I am very much aware of them anyway. I may have reacted against it but I know any reaction would be transitory providing the person was sensitive to my state at the time. I never go more than a day without bathing so chances are if I refused I would bathe the following day which is why it is good to find out the pattern of someone's behaviour because then you can let it go if its an apparently uncooperative day. With this condition being undistressed is far better than being smelly from my POV, it may not be from that of others though:D
 
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HelenInBC

Registered User
Mar 23, 2013
242
At one point I realized the reason that my mom was avoiding showering was that she had forgotten how. She needed help adjusting the water to the right temperature, didn't know how to soap up the washcloth or what to use to wash her hair. We have to let much good her through the whole process now, and stand right there to direct her. We probably can convince her to get in about once a week. Her bathroom sinks though and I think it's due to dripping on the for when she uses the toilet. It's hard to keep up with the cleaning. She has no sense of smell at all either and I think that's quite common with the elderly.

Sent from my Nexus 7 using Talking Point mobile app
 

KatherineW

Volunteer Moderator
Oct 2, 2007
12,654
London
Hi everyone,

I've been reading through this thread and thought I'd share a few resources on this topic that may be useful.

Firstly, Sian from our National Dementia Helpline recently recorded two podcasts on the topic of personal care, the first of which is about washing. Click >>here<< to find out more, and to listen to the podcasts.

Sian will also be our guest in the Talking Point chat room next Thursday afternoon. She'll be available to answer members' questions on washing, dressing and incontinence, so please do pop in to the session if you'd like to. (If you can't make this session, and have a question you'd like us to ask Sian on your behalf, you can always email it to talkingpoint@alzheimers.org.uk).

Lastly, the Alzheimer's Society factsheet on washing and bathing may also be helpful.

Best wishes,
 

Lindy50

Registered User
Dec 11, 2013
5,239
Cotswolds
Thanks Katherine :)

I read the fact sheet last night, I thought it was very good. I'll try to pop into the chat room next Thursday.

Lindy x
 

lizzybean

Registered User
Feb 3, 2014
1,366
Lancashire
Broached the subject with MIL today & she initially said she didn't need to cos she showers when she wants/needs to blah blah. Then she said it would be embarrassing etc & I said she was fine with me washing her when she broke her shoulder & she agreed (not that she probably remembers).

I noticed when we were going to hairdressers that her nails are longer than normal (due to not much housework going on) I said I would get her some nail varnish & do her nails for her, so I might incorporate that as a bribe, sorry I mean incentive as part of the pampering session.
 

CareGiver-1

Registered User
Aug 21, 2014
74
USA
Disposable Personal Washcloths

October 2013 was the last time my MIL (88 years old then; advanced dementia) could safely bathe in a shower even with the safety seat and bars. For almost a year before that date, she refused to bathe and it always became a "battle of wills." She simply believes that she is clean since she just sits on her armchair all day. I have been able to get her to clean up with disposable personal washcloths once a week -- sometimes that extends to once every two weeks, but at least I can get her to hand-bathe more often than before. After all our previous battles I have learned to simply walk up to her without preamble and say “It’s bath time.” (I don’t take “No” for an answer.) I say it repeatedly and give no quarter. Within 5-10 minutes, we are in the bathroom. I do have to instruct her for every step from undressing to what to clean, handing out the disposable washcloths liberally for each section. I only bathe her back and buttocks; she does everything else. Fresh clothes and Depends go on and she is back to her chair in no time. Washing her hair is another problem; I usually do that a different day than the bath because it becomes overwhelming for her to handle.
 

KatherineW

Volunteer Moderator
Oct 2, 2007
12,654
London
Hi everyone,

If you'd like to catch up with what was discussed in our Q&A chat on washing, dressing and incontinence, just click >>here<<.

Many thanks to Sian from our Helpline for her help with the session. :)
 

myname

Registered User
Jul 7, 2011
2
Senile Squalor Syndrome

I haven't seen it mentioned here or anywhere else about hygiene problems with alzheimers. so im wondering if this is part of the disease or something else going on.
my mum has recently become very smelly. she bathes every day but whenever I see her she smells (B.O armpits). I couldn't understand it as she always had her clothes neatly laid out in her bedroom. I finally realized that these neatly laid out clothes weren't getting washed and really smelt very bad.
after strong hints weren't getting through I have started to be really blunt with her, telling her to change her clothes and wash her armpits. I don't like to do this but I don't want her to be 'that old stinky lady' that people talk about. ive even put the offending items of clothing under her nose to smell and she doesn't seem to think its bad. I now also put her washing in each time I go round. she always gets in a bit of a huff about me doing it but as we know, she soon forgets.

has anyone else experienced this. she is recently diagnosed (about 2mth) and I am still finding my feet here
I have had all these problems but Auntie swears she has a bath every day (not true) washes all her clothes (not true, she wets herself then dries the clothes over the radiator), I was tearing my hair out then I was watching the TV series 'Frankie' and a nurse had a similar issue with a patient, she rang social services and said her patient had 'Senile Squalor Syndrome'. When I looked this up it could have been written about Auntie and made me feel a bit easier that it is part of the mental state, it is also called Diogenes syndrome yet when I've mentioned it to Nurses and carers they've said 'never heard of it' but when they've looked it up they have been surprised at the accuracy. You look it up and it may help you to be aware, sadly it doesn't help with the ongoing smelly issues.
 

WarwickCV

Registered User
Jun 29, 2013
12
Warwick
Hygene Isuues

Helpful comments from all, thanks. My wife has AZ. Refuses to bath and shower but does wash - sort of. I organise my own ablutions around hers so I can gently 'supervise' and suggest things. My wife would sleep and live in the same clothes all the time but I keep a constant check on them and get items to the washing m/c before any chance of resistance. Under arm protection etc I always have to hand. Most time the system works but it's a struggle and a wearing one at that

I am sure my wife has lost her sense of smell and losing sense of appropriateness in dressing. So I try and put things out for her as she dresses and not give too much choice; it only seems to confuse. Continence pants are necessary, for night time really and it is a job to get her to understand why she needs to change them and wash afterwards. All this such a change form a year or two ago

The lessons are I think that I have to take charge of her welfare. Give her as much choice as is workable but in the end I need to determine ways how you can it all work. She can't.
 

Rubett

Registered User
Jun 11, 2012
2
I sure do have this problem. My husband of 52 years refuses to shower, change clothes, or shave. It has really become a problem. He gets very mad and creates a nasty scene when I try to talk to him about this. He wears, and sleeps in the same clothes for a week. Sometimes longer. At first I tried keeping our linens changed daily, but as it got worse I started sleeping in one of our spare bedrooms. Also the chair he uses in the living room is a stinky mess. At first I tried keeping a cover on it to keep it from getting soiled, and changing it often. But now I just leave the cover on all of the time. He will notice when I change the cover, but never seems to pays any attention to the messes on it when it is not changed. God bless you and everyone else that has a loved one who has this horrible disease....because taking care of them is difficult to watch, and very stressful for us to take care of them.

I haven't seen it mentioned here or anywhere else about hygiene problems with alzheimers. so im wondering if this is part of the disease or something else going on.
my mum has recently become very smelly. she bathes every day but whenever I see her she smells (B.O armpits). I couldn't understand it as she always had her clothes neatly laid out in her bedroom. I finally realized that these neatly laid out clothes weren't getting washed and really smelt very bad.
after strong hints weren't getting through I have started to be really blunt with her, telling her to change her clothes and wash her armpits. I don't like to do this but I don't want her to be 'that old stinky lady' that people talk about. ive even put the offending items of clothing under her nose to smell and she doesn't seem to think its bad. I now also put her washing in each time I go round. she always gets in a bit of a huff about me doing it but as we know, she soon forgets.

has anyone else experienced this. she is recently diagnosed (about 2mth) and I am still finding my feet here
 

soppysassy

Registered User
Jul 25, 2012
11
MIL washes one day but not the next and when my daughter goes round to clean for her, she notices if the flannel is bone dry or not. MIL does insist that she washes (strip washes) every day but sometimes she is a bit smelly which is a real shame. None of us truly have the courage to say anything but maybe we should. She is quite fit for 82 but her mind is sadly going. She still lives in her warden assisted flat and manages to get the washing done. Mind you, I will check if that is actually the case. I do feel for everyone on here whose loved ones have these issues. God bless all. :)
 

Lisa74

Registered User
May 27, 2011
276
Yes, unfortunately it's common for people with dementia to forget to wash (self and clothes) or wash insufficiently.

Would you be able to ensure that she gets in the shower when you are there twice a week? I know that ideally she would wash once or twice a day but twice a week is the minimum acceptable standard. Ensure that she puts antiperspirant on after these washes too :) My mum has to bathe my gran 2-3x/week whereas we all shower/bathe two/three times a day but it keeps her from smelling!
 

AnneED

Registered User
Feb 19, 2012
80
East Yorkshire UK
Hygiene, back to basics

Mum is a little way down the line with this issue so we have learnt what works. She changed pants every day but nothing else except cardigans from time to time. After two weeks the wash basket will contain 14 pairs of pants and nothing else. She may shower during the week but more often than not, does not but thinks she has. There is no point arguing as in her world she showers and changes her clothes. So...
When she is not wearing her nightie, that goes in the wash. When she is wearing her nightie and is in the bathroom or in bed, all the other clothes go in the wash. All towels and bedding are removed without asking, but often discreetly and go in the wash. I now stay over once a fortnight so that I can get up early and remove all clothes. Mum will shower if we are there, without reminder. She will go to the hairdressers once a week. She will see her chiropodist. She has asked me to help her trim her nails. When we stay over it seems to get her into a memory of former routine and she does quite a few things automatically that she doesn't do if alone. She doesn't smell most of the time and that for me is the important thing. It maybe helps that she doesn't move a lot and tends to feel cold even in warmer weather. The accidental spilling of things on her clothes has been used when necessary, as has the 'we are going out for a special meal, which of your sunday best outfits are you going to wear?' I buy her clothes in the styles I think she will like when she needs them as she never thinks she needs them. They go into the wardrobe straightaway. I stick to a limited colour range as she has no sense of what goes, any more.
We have now sadly found that she can't wash up properly any more so we wash and she dries (as drying can't go wrong). We put away as she puts things in all sorts of odd places, but it means she can help do everyday things. She is still able to bake reasonably well and safely, though cannot cook properly any more, so she bakes. She is still able to take up trousers (?) so she does that for all our family under guidance!
 

DazeInOurLives

Registered User
Dec 10, 2009
107
East Midlands,UK
twitter.com
I haven't seen it mentioned here or anywhere else about hygiene problems with alzheimers. so im wondering if this is part of the disease or something else going on.
my mum has recently become very smelly. she bathes every day but whenever I see her she smells (B.O armpits). I couldn't understand it as she always had her clothes neatly laid out in her bedroom. I finally realized that these neatly laid out clothes weren't getting washed and really smelt very bad.
after strong hints weren't getting through I have started to be really blunt with her, telling her to change her clothes and wash her armpits. I don't like to do this but I don't want her to be 'that old stinky lady' that people talk about. ive even put the offending items of clothing under her nose to smell and she doesn't seem to think its bad. I now also put her washing in each time I go round. she always gets in a bit of a huff about me doing it but as we know, she soon forgets.

has anyone else experienced this. she is recently diagnosed (about 2mth) and I am still finding my feet here
Hi,

I've been through this with both my parents and it's one of the trickiest things. Dad was compliant and happy for me to help him, Mum wasn't originally. So here's what we did/do with her:

1) Keep her clothes clean - that's half the battle. A day's missed body wash is not an issue if she is wearing clean clothes. I used to go through her wardrobe and smell all the armpits and pull out to wash anything that had been worn, even once. (I don't need to now as I have more input generally and her clothes don't get so bad). Mum doesn't know who's put the washing on...she used to assume that she had, so that was easy once it was in the machine. I'd also find excuses to be there when she was in her nightie so I could scoop up everything that she had worn during the day. As a last resort I have accidentally spilt water on her if she is wearing something really smelly or food-stained that I haven't been able to get off her...once wet she can't take it off fast enough and I can accept her irritation over my clumsiness as a pay off for getting her clothes clean..

2) In terms of her wash, Mum still believes that she can do it and technically she can, but actually never does. She gets huffy and if pushed, highly irritable at any hint that she can't do it properly. I never ever give her that impression and never will. Of course she can wash herself...goes without saying...and my body language has to tell the same story.

It was a really difficult one but she did smell bad for quite a while before I found a way in; I had to find an acceptable way to intervene. Years back, several years after her disease took hold, I started to help her wash her back and her feet; we called them the tricky bits and it was difficult for her to argue with that, although she thought I was being fussy. When I washed her back I was able to include her armpits. It gradually evolved over time for me to enable her to do more and for me to wash more of her myself. I had to go incredibly slowly to build it up. Whilst I wash her back, I very matter of factly hand her a warm wet flannel and say 'this one is for your face Mum'. That works a treat now. I hold the soap dispenser or a bar of soap out for her to wash her hands and the basin is filled with warm water ready for her hands (often the grubbiest part of her) Once she's washed her face and neck and any other bit that takes her fancy (which often includes the window sill and basin)," I hand her a soapy brown flannel and say this one is for between your legs.' Usually that works too. If I am concerned that she is dirty, I am now able to use a couple of warmed baby wipes to clean at the back before she gets there with the flannel.

What's really important is to be having a conversation about something completely different at the same time, so that she barely notices what is happening. Mum prefers a strip wash so we stand at the basin and look out over her (beautiful) garden, looking for squirrels and woodpeckers. This keeps her engaged and not concentrating on the fact that she is receiving help.

Underarm deodorant is very necessary to keep things under control and if her mood means that I cannot get her to go through this routine occasionally, it doesn't really matter. She never used to wear deodorant so it was tough to introduce. The spray is more effective than a roll on, but she hates the cold shock. Sometimes I put some on me, then on Mum, but either way, I always tell her "Sorry Mum, you don't like this, it's chilly" and I wait a couple of seconds for that to sink in before i actually spray it on her. That way she accepts it well, grateful that I acknowledge that she doesn't like it.

Nowadays, I wash her feet separately as a 'pampering session' in front of the television, but in the beginning it was a useful 'inroad' to help Mum get used the idea of me helping her to wash. pic.twitter.com/Yzz6rukSAd

Her hair is now done by a mobile hairdresser every week...more often than she used to do, but she looks better for it. People seem to treat Mum much better when she is well presented.

Hope this is of some help. It's such a personal and sensitive area, but really worth starting to get a toe in as early as possible. Good luck.

pic.twitter.com/wR8j1bFxzQ
 
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Whippets Rule

Registered User
Jun 17, 2009
18
Kent
Hi reading this thread has made me feel really sad. My Dad has Alzheimer's and my mum is his carer. he has been reluctant to change clothes and she's had to hide his clothes and wash them and put different clothes out. He's not bad bad yet and quite with it some of the time but he's much more morose and miserable and grumpy and forgets how to do simple things and yet can manage to do other stuff.It's such a sad disease......I do have one question and i will probably seem quite stupid but is incontinence an inevitable part of alzheimer's?
 

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