What Should I Do if My Parent Resists Bathing?

What Should I Do if My Parent Resists Bathing?
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 Answer

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.