She still lives in her home but basically can not do anything but get up to go to the bathroom. We have to take care of everything else.

For DH's family, MIL'S refusal to bathe at the end of her life was the straw that broke the camel's back. She just--stopped bathing, completely. The smell was awful. For someone who had been beyond fastidious in her grooming, this was a really sad development.

The occasional incontinence sure didn't help.

When she started putting up a fight, biting people and raging at anyone who came near her--DH's OB simply started checking out ALF's. Dh was POA, but he never did a thing with his 'power'. He also didn't care that OB basically stepped up and did it all.

Somebody who does not want to bathe, can become incredibly strong and combative. I couldn't believe that the 3 sibs working together could not get her in the tub. (She didn't have a shower, thought they were low class).

Honestly, sounds like you need to find mom a care facility. If she can only take herself to the bathroom but nothing else--what is her QOL at this time? She needs CGs every single day. Bathing is just one of the many ADL'S she is incapable of doing.

You can get away with 'bed baths' between showers--but you cannot do it forever.

Good Luck with this. Honestly, it was the fighting over not bathing that landed MIL in a NH.
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to Midkid58
Tiredniece23 May 29, 2024
Be happy you got her into one. You did the right thing.
See 1 more reply
There are small businesses that specialize in just bathing. I see one that comes to my mother's place, on the Assisted Living side.

Maybe Google one, and see if there's someone who will come out and help her with that. ◡̈
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to cxmoody
NeedHelpWithMom May 29, 2024
I had no idea that there was such a service! Wonderful suggestion for anyone who is interested in trying this out.
Unfortunately, lack of bathing becomes a common problem.

Bathing actually has many steps & requires much planning & short term memory to accomplish. Add feeling cold, stiff or pain & no wonder people refuse. Then add lack of smell & loss to reason & they don't underdtand why bathing is hygienic & necessary.

What to do?

The ususal answer depends or what level of help the person needs;
1. Prompting
Leading into the bathroom & prompting each step. Then comes
2. Assisting. Doing the task together. (With family or an aide) Then
3. Full Assistance. The person is bathed by another (shower, basin wash or bed bath).

As most types of dementia are progressive, bathing is part of the wider picture. What other ADLs now require prompting or assistance? Meals? Meds? Toileting?

As independance slips into semi-dependant, then dependant, choices about home need to be made. Home vs Home + carers vs Nursing Home.
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to Beatty

My guess is that everyone is so wrapped up in keeping her at home that you're stuck in that way of thinking. You're enabling her to live at home, and that isn't good for her overall health, as you now realize. Not bathing can lead to sores that won't heal. Skin fungus. Her odor will cause family and friends to avoid her. In short, it's a terrible situation. It's unsustainable.

You need a plan to get her 24/7 care, preferably in a facility where she can socialize. Professionals will know how to bathe her and keep her clean. You will be freed from the bondage of running her household and lying to yourselves and others that mom's fine, just fine, she just has a little mumble mumble problem but she's going to be all right.

Dementia changes everything, and when it's this serious, things cannot go on as if they were normal. I wish you luck in finding the help mom needs.
Helpful Answer (7)
Reply to Fawnby

Get some wipes called “dude wipes” or similar and give her a bed bath.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Southernwaver

Your Mom’s dementia is to the point where she can not live alone. She needs 24/7 supervision , either live in help or a facility.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to waytomisery

I have been fighting to bathe my husband, and care for his skin for 9 years.
He suffers dementia as the result of a stroke, but his general health is not declining. He could live like this for many more years, and has been kicked out of Nursing homes because they could not safely manage his combative behavior.

I have learned to compromise. He is not as clean as I would like, but I manage to wrestle him and get a quick sponge bath in when I can.
Here are some of my tips:
Make it a part of their regular routine. For instance, when you wake up, we wash your face, and upper body, under the arms, and get a fresh shirt. Have a basin of warm water and soap ready in advance, a nice soft wash cloth, and sprinkle a couple drops of their favorite scent in the water, so it smells familiar to them.

Try and be as soothing and calm and gentle as possible. For me, fighting my stronger husband, I have learned to get in and out very quickly, before he can grab my arm or pull the cloth out of my hand.

I use disposable washcloths (large wipes) to try and get under the arms, then I use a 3" or 4" square gauze pad, (2 of them, actually) and pre-apply antiperspirant to the clean dry pad, and sprinkle with a little anti-fungal powder, and simply tuck it under their armpit. Let it stay there for a moment while I do the same on the other side, then those can be removed and thrown away.
I use a lot of disposable products to help prevent the spread of bacteria.

I don't get too ambitious and try to wash the whole body at one time.
I wash the lower part of the body when I do the first morning diaper change.
Again, warm water and soap, some disposable cloths, and try to quickly saturate the area enough to get the skin clean.

If mom is getting up and going to the bathroom herself, place some wipes near the toilet and encourage her to thoroughly clean her skin when she goes.

If she is able to do so autonomously, she may feel more comfortable using disposable wipes to perform her own sponge bath every day.

I think for some, there is a fear of the water, not liking to get wet, or fear of slipping in the shower or bath, so they may be more open to a sponge bath.

There are caps you can buy for washing the scalp and hair. I don't use these, but that may be an acceptable option for her. You place it on the head, massage gently, then, simply remove and throw away. No running water needed!

Another tip for a combative bather, give them some part in the process. It will help them to feel they have some control. And keep their hands busy :)
Such as: have them hold the dry towel - use a small, hand towel, not a huge, heavy bath towel. And tell them they can dry after you wash.
That worked with my husband a couple times, then he got wise to me and would throw it down!
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to CaringWifeAZ

I was not successful getting my father to shower. He simply refused no matter how much cajoling or demanding.

My father who had mild dementia didn’t shower for a year and I gagged when I went into my parents’ home until I got used to the stench.

He is now in SNF gets regular showers and looks 1000% better than he did when living at home.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to Hothouseflower
cover9339 Jun 6, 2024
He didn't use body spray and deodorant?
See 1 more reply
My mom was also refusing to shower all of a sudden. I realized she was having a hard time adjusting the temperature of the water..she was washing her hands at the kitchen sink one day and I noticed she pulled her hand back quickly . The water was so hot but she couldn't figure out how to make it cooler.. so i assumed she wasnt able to adjust the shower. after seeing this I started offering to get the shower ready when I was at her house. ( I was with her every day,)She went from showering every 2 weeks to showering at least twice a week. Try running the bath or shower for her, get the water temperature comfortable.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to MDR317

Moving her to an assisted living facility or memory care facility will not guarantee that she gets bathed. If she is combative there, they may not bathe her much.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to DianaFS
MiaMoor Jun 4, 2024
I thought that bed baths would be basic, routine care.
See 1 more reply
See All Answers
Ask a Question
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter