Communicating with your mom about bathing
One of the most powerful tools for making the bathing process go smoothly is communication. Touch base with your mom about the task. Ask about her preferences. Check in about her fears. This will help her feel respected and included at a time when she's losing a huge chunk of independence. Being unable to bathe oneself is a significant loss and can be depressing.
Be aware that this discussion can be awkward. Bathing is an extremely sensitive topic. No one likes to depend on someone else, let alone on their own child, for cleanliness. And when the child is of the opposite sex, it's doubly difficult. Expect your mother to be unusually shy, antsy, irritable, or even resistant to the whole idea. People with dementia or Alzheimer's may even get combative because they're so terrified and confused.
Before and during the bath, be as nonchalant as you can. Take an almost businesslike tone, discussing bathing as if it's a necessary medical procedure rather than a personal experience. Lay out the game plan briefly. Confer and run through the realities. "I know you'd like to take a shower by yourself, but the truth is you can't stand up well right now." "I know you'd prefer to wait a few days, but the doctor said you should bathe today."
Give your mom as much independence as she's capable of. Simply handing her a washcloth goes a long way. "It gives her a sense of entitlement and occupies her so she's not as concerned about what you're doing," says Serafin.
It also helps to stick to familiar routines as much as possible. If your mom likes a certain kind of soap, use it. If she always showers in the mornings, aim for the same timing. "You try and do everything she'd do if she weren't sick. You want to make her feel like she's a whole person and not being forgotten," says Lisa Balestreri, a registered nurse and the owner of Complete Nursing Solutions, a home healthcare service in El Sobrante, California.