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Refusing to wash or change clothing


New member
Dec 20, 2019

First post although I’ve been reading a lot on here which is extremely helpful.

My mother is 85, she was diagnosed last September, she had walked out of two appointments and it was obvious she was advanced, in what we now know to be Alzheimer’s affecting the left lobe. My father, aged 86, covered for her at the early stages, even banning my sisters and myself from visiting as we voiced our concerns. I think what made it more in the open was went she went missing last year, I turned up to find several police cars outside and a helicopter circling. The police found her after three hours.

We are now at a point where I consider her to be very advanced. My father has come to terms with it, which makes it a lot easier for us to talk as a family. My mother now struggles to talk, she eats and drinks very little and she is very confrontational.

This is the advice I would like, if anybody can help. My mother stopped washing or cleaning her teeth about four months ago. She lives in the same clothes twenty four hours a day, even sleeping in them. She had a her hair done once a week at a hairdressers but that stopped with the lock down. It’s now trying to get her washed, you ask her about having a wash or bath and she just says “No!” Any advice on getting her to wash or accepting help to wash?

Thanks in advance


Volunteer Moderator
Dec 15, 2012
hello @Ubique
a warm welcome to posting on DTP

unfortunately, yours is a situation many of us will recognise … I'd suggest you don't ask your mother (default response is always no), just act as though it's the most natural thing to have the bath/shower ready for her, with her favourite soaps etc, and gently steer her through what she needs to do, as it may be that she has lost track of the process of washing

it may be time to look at having home care visits so carers take on the task of persuading your mother into the bathroom
contact their Local Authority Adult Services to arrange an assessment of your mother's care needs

this info on the main AS site may help


Registered User
May 21, 2018
It sounds as though you really need some outside help @Ubique . Personal hygiene seems to be a common problem with dementia. I know that some people with dementia (my mum included) can be frightened of showers and baths, so it may take a bit of work. A professional carer in a uniform may have more success in persuading your mum to wash. It might take more than one carer. In the meantime, there are skin cleansing foams which can be used without water and also no rinse shampoos you could try but I doubt your mum would consent to your using those. It's very personal stuff and perhaps best left to a professional.


Registered User
Nov 13, 2018
My Dad would barely change his clothes and not shower so we tried the carer approach and it worked for a while. They could “hussle” him in by being matter of fact and not giving him a choice or time to think so that did work for about a year . We would leave spare sets of clothes out and the carer would remove the dirty set whilst he was showering . However he then started locking the carers out and pretending he couldn’t hear the door or me ringing him and I’m sure it was because he didn’t want a shower. He’d say “tomorrow “ or “next week” . He went into respite as lockdown started and is still there. The home have tried everything to get him to wash or shower but he’s become aggressive raising his fist and throwing things at them . He’s not washed for almost 6 months now so things will keep deteriorating but it may help for a while to try the carer approach?

The same happened to us , Mum covering up for him for a long time even though it was obvious there were memory and cognitive problems and so he was diagnosed relatively late on. It’s such a cruel illness. I only managed to get him diagnosed after Mum passed away.

Canadian Joanne

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 8, 2005
Toronto, Canada
Another approach which sometimes worked with my mother was to offer her a choice between a bath and a shower. I also would use bubble bath and she seemed to enjoy those.

At one point, my mother stank and I found that phase of the disease very distressing. It simply wasn't my mother.


Volunteer Host
Apr 1, 2016
Hi @Ubique welcome from me too.

I found the only way to get my dad to shower was to turn on the shower and pretend he’d forgotten hw was going to use it. Obviously this meant a lot of wasted hot water and an hour or more of my time when I should‘ve be been working...and dad had started to stink.

The problem was solved by getting carers in. They managed to breeze in and out in 45 minutes getting dad to wash, clean teeth and have breakfast. They even stripped the wet sheets, washed them and had them hanging on the line when I arrived later. I was happy for him to shower just once a week (or when absolutely necessary) which was a vast improvement on what I’d achieved and he no longer smelled bad.
It seems that many PWD are more co-operative with professional carers.

I also remember my mum telling me (in a rare moment of clarity) that she thought she’d hate having carers help her to bathe but once it was necessary she didn’t and actually enjoyed the pampering. She preferred a bath and had one of those seats which lower into the bath. Lots of bubbles and warm fluffy towels. It was one of her few remaining pleasures at this stage.


Registered User
Mar 12, 2018
I sometimes found, depending how active the person is, that Mummy was encouraged to have a shower by looking at shower gels with me, choosing one she fancied and then I would say, when we got home, shall we try it out?
At the point before going into a CH, she was having one (reluctant) shower and hair wash a week, which I supervised. She needed prompting to know what to do and saw it all as a bit of a faff, to be avoided if possible.
Once in the CH I think the routines did support more regular washing, sadly now she has deteriorated to a point where personal care is sometimes met with aggression. The care staff are very patient though.

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