What can I do to help convince my dad to bathe more often?

2 answers | Last updated: Mar 12, 2011
Tombaugh asked...

My father, who lives with my husband and me, is 96 years old and is mentally sound with one exception. He will only bathe once a week. He has incontinence and bowel issues. He only changes his clothes once a week when he bathes -- that includes underwear. He stinks so badly you can't be near him. I have asked, pleaded and demanded to no avail. I have tried to approach the subject of disposable protection. He gets upset and tells me to mind my own business. What can I do?


Expert Answers

Issues around bathing and aging are common, which doesn't mean they're easy to solve. You ask a question that several others have asked -- within the past week! I'm hoping our accumulated experience and expertise can help you with your dad. Many older people avoid bathing - for all kinds of reasons. The first challenge is finding out why your dad is doing this. The second is coming up with alternatives that will help him stay clean. The good news is both can be accomplished.

I'm going to share links to Caring information that I'm hoping will help. First, take a look at this article on fecal incontinence. Our expert nurse practitioner weighed in on this topic recently. She also provided this answer to a question about a mom who won't bathe. Our expert physical therapist answered a question about a grandfather who refuses to bathe. And here's an answer to a question on encouraging a listless mom to bathe.

You can see you're not alone. You deserve to feel comfortable in your home, which means finding a solution to the smell issues. Your dad deserves to be clean. Try not to be hard on yourself. Bathing is incredibly intimate, and it's very hard for many older (and younger) people to talk about it or to "hear" they need help (let alone accepting this help). If nothing else works, it's really OK to hire a caregiver to bathe your dad - to take on this challenge. He may very well be more compliant and comfortable with a nonfamily member. Good luck.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

plain and simple...tell him as long as he lives in your house he must bathe regularly