What Should I Do if My Parent Resists Bathing?

What Should I Do if My Parent Resists Bathing?
4 answers | Last updated: Dec 08, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...
My mother has become difficult to bathe, fighting me off, pulling away, and even hitting me. How should I deal with this?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

If your mother is resisting a bath to the point of fighting -- and this happens, especially with people who have Alzheimer's or dementia -- stop and try again tomorrow or the next day. We all have bad days, including our parents, and letting it go until a better time is OK. Your mother may let you do the basics with a wipe or washcloth rather than a full bath, which is fine for a few days. But if your parent is aggressive at every bath time, this is a sign that you need to do something more.

Your mother should get a full head-to-toe bath once or twice a week. You can hire a home health worker to deal with bathing, which is probably the easiest solution. Many professionals are experienced with people who are frightened of or aggravated by bathing, which often causes aggression. Another option is to talk to your mother's doctor about antianxiety medication. This may sound extreme, but in some cases it's the only way you can help your parent stay clean, and excellent medications are available.

Community Answers

Billf answered...

I agree with Jennifer, a home care helper might be a big benefit. I work on a caregiving blog and we did a couple of stories on helping to get older parents to bathe. Here are some tips from one of our most popular stories: 1. Ensure as much privacy as possible and provide adequate lighting and safety measures (grab bars, shower bench, non-skid surfaces, hand-held shower head etc.);

  1. Experiment with times of day that are mutually agreeable "“ include the person in the decision making;

  2. Prepare the bathroom so that it is cozy, warm and provides a distraction-free environment that is pleasing;

  3. Be positive and upbeat and use a calm voice at all times;

  4. Separate hair-washing from bathing so that the bathing session doesn't take a long time;

  5. Be willing to negotiate how often the full shower or bath is taken "“ three times a week is adequate with sponge bathing in-between; and,

  6. Be aware if pain, balance or fear of falling is an issue and address the remedy for each BEFORE beginning the bathing process.

If you are interested in reading more tips on elder bathing from caregivers from around the country. Check out our blog at http://www.rightathome.net/seniorhomecare.

Good luck, Bill

Pegssister answered...

If I ask my sister if she is ready for a shower, the answer is always no. I'll just wash up today. So, I get clean clothes out, towels, etc. and say, OK, we're taking a shower now. You will feel so much better. Don't ask, just be firm.

A fellow caregiver answered...

My mom is 86 and diagnosed with dementia. She argues and resists anything I try to help her with, showering included. It was wearing me out, but I hired a senior care home service to come twice per week to do showers and I will do a shower with her on Sunday as well. Mom has been lots healthier with the more freqent showers, where before she would have UTI frequently.