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What do you do when your loved one won't let you bathe him, shave him, or change his Depends when they need it?

July 15, 2013

What do you do when your loved one won’t let you bathe him, shave him, or change his Depends when they need it?

I’ve had an agency coming for 20-plus days and no one seems to be able to talk him into getting cleaned up. He gets very combative with me so I have to just let it go. Once in a while he will let me use the disposable washcloths, but he hasn’t been in the bathtub since February.

Personal care and bathing can be very challenging for families and staff. The person with dementia may not fully understand what is happening; he or she fights back out of fear, or out of their sense of pride and independence.

I’m glad you’ve hired some in-home help. They can sometimes be more successful that family members. I’m sorry they’ve struggled; ask the agency if the staff have had special training in dementia care. Have them try someone new; one family friend’s father resisted personal care but they finally found one in-home caregiver who just had that magic touch to turn a “no” into a “yes”.

Be sure that staff members are approaching him skillfully. Are they introducing themselves, helping him feel at ease by talking about his past (“Tell me about that award you won as teacher of the year.”) and approaching the task with confidence? I’m intrigued that he sometimes let you use the wipes. Can you figure out any reason why he says yes on these occasions?

It may be a long shot, but sometimes persons like your husband will respond if you tell them it’s doctor’s orders (get a written Rx from the doctor to take a shower).

Check with your physician for some other ideas. Be sure to rule out pain or other illness like urinary tract infections (which can increase his confusion). You may consider talking to the doctor about a behavioral medicine to calm him.

Finally, I’d encourage you to contact your local Alzheimer’s Association or society. They may have resources and classes about personal care. One of my favorite resources is a book and DVD called Bathing Without a Battle.

I’m so sorry you’ve had such a tough journey. I hope these ideas help.

Thoughts and stories from others

  1. September 6, 2013 at 01:03 am
    Posted by Nancy Hendler

    I have taken care of dementia patients privately for 18 years, mostly in their homes so they didn't have to be institutionalized and I learned many useful things: I never argued at all no matter how frustrated I got, it doesn't solve anything. I would just go with what they were asking or talking about and then slowly switch the subject and then POOF, all over! I know it's very frustrating but they can't help it. Take a minute and take a deep breathe and then try again. It's ironic though, my Mom has dementia and I'm not allowed to even visit because of my sister???

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