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How can I get my husband to bathe?

Answered by Karen Garner

February 5, 2015

My husband Alec, 89, a WWII vet who has been living with dementia for a few years. I have learned a lot about when to ignore “events” which he wants to make an issue about. But I am firm about pill time, inhalators, walk time, rest time (He will not go down for a nap. So he gets tired early and wants to go to bed at 8 pm.) We are getting along just fine much of the time.

I have cleaning help occasionally, and someone to shop for e once a week. We go through old pictures and our travel videos to remind us of longtime friends and destinations. It reminds us of the great times we have had. I have a marvelous son and “The best” daughter in law anyone could have who live nearby. We are so blessed.

But Alec wakes up at 5 am. He really believes he has taken a shower (as he used to every morning.) Gets dressed without taking a shower (in yesterday’s soiled clothes if I haven’t remembered to take them and toss them in the hamper.) He really believes he has taken a shower. I am 84 and night time finds me tired, and I forget a lot. LOL)

What tips can you give me to get him in the shower so I can bathe him without having a “verbal war”? We have a very convenient sit down shower, ready for a wheel chair should that be necessary for either of us if necessary.

I am so happy to hear what a wonderful caregiver you are. You take the time to reminisce with your husband, and it sounds like you have a good support team helping you. I am very glad to hear this. It can be quite frustrating to try to keep to old schedules and routines for yourself when your loved one has their own new agenda.

Is it possible to let him skip a day or two in the shower and use a washcloth with soap and water or wipes and just clean him up a bit? How soiled are the clothes he wore the day before? Are they stained? Do they smell? Will anyone know besides you?

In years past, I am sure you both were diligent about cleanliness and appearances, but times have changed for you now, and if you can accept his new take on personal hygiene, you will save yourself much worry and stress.

Now, that isn’t to say he doesn’t need to put on clean clothes and shower when possible, but sometimes you must lose a battle to win a war. If you are still having trouble getting him in, try to understand what it is about the shower that is bothering him. Could he be cold? Could he suddenly have decided he is scared of falling or scared of water?

It might take a while to determine the cause, but there may be a simple solution that won’t make sense to you right away, but is causing him to balk at clean up time.

Thoughts and stories from others

  1. February 11, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    what are the stages they go thru?

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