What can we do if the Alzheimer's facility that my mom lives in won't bathe her?

Portlandpaula asked...

We pay $4,000 a month for 24-hour care for Mom in an Alzheimer's facility. Because of the conservative approach Washington state reflects about the patient's civil rights, the facility has not bathed her in nearly 6 months! She doesn't want to bathe--they walk away. What can we do? This is appalling to us! What are the negative health ramifications of this madness? Please help!

Expert Answer

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

I have been working in this field for over 35 years and this astounds me!  I know resident rights are important but your mother has been diagnosed with a dementia and symptoms of dementia are that they are unable to process information to make good decisions.  An Alzheimer's facility should have been able to take care of this problem.  I would have a serious meeting with the person responsible for nursing care and find out why they have not been able to care for your mothers personal needs.  Their are many "creative" ways to get a person to take a bath or shower.  Getting a person to take a bath who does not want to demands approaches that "fit" the patient.  For instance if the person is religious i tell them church is the next day and they of course always bathe before church.  If being naked is a problem allow them to wear a gown or bathing suit.  Bed baths are wonderful ways to bath someone who is resistant as each part of the body is covered until it is being washed.  Then wash as much as they can and stop when the person becomes upset.  Eventually, the entire body gets washed!  Make sure they approach her with cues that will let her know what they would like her to do like a bar of soap and towels.  Hopefully they have a non-institutional bath that is not frightening for her.   if they need help in learning different approaches to use the Alzheimer's Association can help.