How do I get my father to bathe when he refuses to do anything but just wash off?

14 answers | Last updated: Dec 02, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How do I get my father to bathe when he refuses to do anything but just wash off?


Expert Answers

Many elderly people become reluctant to bathe, and there are various reasons for this. It may be balance problems, causing a fear of falling; discomfort with temperature changes, the cool or heat of a bath/shower water; modesty (especially if they need help bathing); or body pain associated with standing, bending, or sitting. People with Alzheimer's or dementia can fear water, and be irritated by its sound.

I would try talking to your dad to see if you can get a little more information about why he doesn't want to bathe. Ask him specifically if he feels unstable, chilled, or in pain. There are bathing techniques for people with all of these issues, but the topic is sensitive as it indicates a significant loss of independence. This article on bathing your dad elaborates, with helpful suggestions.

I would also talk to your dad's doctor about his reluctance to bathing. A check-up may be a good idea. His doctor can help rule in, or out, medical explanations. Meanwhile, there's nothing really wrong with your dad bathing by hand-washing, as long as he's cleaning all of his body folds, and private areas. This is where bacteria lingers which can cause odors. But a full bath once a week (or so) is a good idea, so you're doing the right thing by getting more information.

I get quite a few questions on bathing and the answers may help you. Here's one from a woman having a similar problem with her mother. Here's more advice on dealing with bathing resistance, and here's one on why bathing regularly is necessary. I hope they help.

 

 

 

 


Community Answers

Chaplain answered...

You have not identified the problem, Does he smell? If he washes off thoroughly and changes clothes regularly why make a major issue of it.If he smells or isn't getting clean you may need to tell him and provide a anti-bacterial soap perhaps. The elderly have very dry skin. He should not bath very often. Two or three times a week unless working. You do need to know why he is not bathing. Can he stand for long period? an he get in and out of the tub easily? He will bath if doing so makes him feel better. Apparently it doesn't. Many elderly find it almost impossible to get in and out of a tub or stand safely in a shower and are embarrassed to admit this. Provide the tub with seat and a hand held shower hose that is easy to turn on and off and that allows him to sit down while showering. Have rails installed for ease in getting up safely and for balancing. Be sure the room is adequately heated. Dad will likely bath once its easy for him to do so safely and comfortably.


Sweetiepoops answered...

I can totally identify with u! All of the above issues have already been addressed, at least in our case! The ONLY reason left for my dad, is that he just does not want to bathe! He just plain does not feel like it & furthermore he really could not care less...it is just way too much of a hassle (it just takes way too much effort)!


Nannyp answered...

I really have a time getting Ron to take a shower. If he gets inn the tub for a bath, he cannot get out. My caregiver can't do it alone and I have a bad back and can't lift on him. So my only alternative is to call a neighbor, so try to bathe him when he is home if he wants in the tub. thank god for friends, my two neighbors are GREAT.


Sister margaret answered...

My 99 yr old father was born in a third-world country. He thinks that I am "fussy" when I suggest he bathe. Since he is of sound mind and still capable, I have no way to get him in the shower. He came to live with us in 2008 when my step-mother had a stroke - she died a few months later. I had a screaming fight with him to get him to shower for her funeral - and he has not been in a shower since. He washes off at the sink, and he smells like an unused closet. We just shrug and let it be. My cousins, who still live in the cottage where my father grew up (in that third world country) just had a shower and tub installed this spring, and they managed fine all these years. So, I tell myself that most of the world does not wash, just let it go. No sense in getting crazy , it's a losing battle.

Serenity now!!


A fellow caregiver answered...

I noticed this with both my parents as they aged. One of the reasons I believe was the cause has not appeared on many of the forums I have seen about this: it takes a lot of energy to bathe. You bend, move around, lift your arms high (to wash hair, for example). I offer this because as I age, I find myself a bit drained after a morning shower - something I have done all my life and taken for granted. Also, grooming afterward is harder - less hair to work with so more time rather than a shower and go. My only point is that there may be reasons other than dementia, less care for social norms, or even skin oil depletion. It just is tiring to bathe - even with help.


Elainesc answered...

My Dad is 86. He will go 5 days without a bath and only because we badger him. He is at home with my bedridden mother & he still cares for her & we have 2 paid caregivers but Dad gets around fine. He just won't bathe & change his clothes. He will wear the same sweatshirt 4 or 5 days in a row even if it is dirty. I have to insist that he bathe before going to the doctor or even riding with us to take my mother on her appointments. It is awful to ride in the car with him after 3 days of not bathing. He has gotten defensive because he thinks we want our mother in a nursing home so we hardly reprimand him on anything at all now. He gets very upset/angry. He is very capable of getting into the shower though. He just won't. It is as if this is just another chore for him that he chooses not to do. I was busy getting my mother ready for her doctor's appointment and when we got to the doctor's office, I noticed that Dad had on dirty old khakis and his shoes were dirty. I wanted to crawl under the chair. He brushes us off with an "awwww, hush"! It is very awkward for us now. Mom has dementia so she doesn't even think to ask him to bathe. He would listen to her but not to his 60 year old daughter! Oh meeeee!!


Altorres75 answered...

Maybe he just want to enjoy the privacy of bathing alone. Have you tried looking for tubs designed for the elderly and the disabled? There are a lot of tubs now with the elderly in mind. You can try Comfort Walk In Tubs http://comfortwalkintubs.com/


Dnicke answered...

I've got the exact same problem with my 85-year old father. He is sooo stubborn! Trouble is, he has ALWAYS hated taking a bath, even when he was younger. My mother had a helluva time getting him to bathe. Since he's been alone now, we've tried everything from shame to flattery.

One thing he loves to do is go out to play cards - we go to euchre tournaments. I take him to euchre tournaments about twice a week. I only ask him to bath once a week, but can't even seem to get him to do that. He will even lie to me, but I can tell when I get there to pick him up - because he STINKS! It is embarrassing to take him in public like that. He often claims to have "washed up at the sink", bit he still won't use soap. And, I'm sorry, but that just does not get a body clean!

FInally, I had to do something drastic on Monday night. I was on my way to pick him up for his euchre tournament, which he LOVES more than anything. I called and asked him if he bathed, he promised me that he did. When I arrived, the odor hooked me in the nose as soon as I walked in the door. I looked in his walk-in tub and found it dry as a bone. I confronted him, and he admitted it but still was uncooperative. For the first time ever, I walked out and left him at home and went to play cards alone. I think this really shook him up. The bad thing is, I felt really super guilty the whole night! It hurt really bad to do that, brought me to tears thinking about the look on his face all night. I felt horrible doing that to him, and I dreaded the thought if anything happened to him between now and the next time I can take him out again.

Well, tonight we go out again. I called him and he agreed to get IN the bath-tub and wash up with SOAP. Now he KNOWS that I will leave him home if he does not comply. We shall see if the "tough love" approach finally does the trick!


Evansmom55 answered...

My mother in law is not bathing, not leaving the house, drinking heavily. When we try and get her out ofthe house she complains of diziness. This is not a new problem, dizziness is her go to complaint anytime she is out of the house. She has become a total recluse and we live over an hour away. We have spoken to her about assisted living but she insists that she wants to stay wher she is and expects us and her neighbors to do everything for her. She will not step out of the house for fear of falling. Complains about being dizzy all the time but when she is home in her own element she is fine.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Several of the answers above say something like - What is the big deal, if they don't want to bathe it's their choice, leave them be. The problem is that others have to live around them. My mother frequently refuses to bathe or to change her clothes - but still wants our hugs and kisses! I love my mother and love to be close to her but it is almost impossible to physically affectionate with a person who stinks like a henhouse! And I am her daughter. Imagine what it is like for her grandchildren who really avoid being anywhere near her. They love her but it is hard for them to feel (or be) close to a truly filthy grandmother. Everyone, including her, is suffering.


Honey de answered...

it is certainly work and energy required to take a bath and shower. old people have so little spare energy and most of us won't figure that out tt until we age,


Honey de answered...

regarding odors if you can try getting them into nightclothes then take their daytime clothing and especially underwear and wash it


Alphathr3e answered...

I lie and tell my mom she needs to take a shower cause we are going to church. It works most of the time. I even get ready with her as if we were going. It seems like a lot of work but at least she takes a shower.