Mom used to be good at keeping herself and the house clean. She had a standing, nothing short of the end of the world would cancel her appointment, appointment at the beauty parlor that you could set your watch to and every Sunday no matter what, when I was a child she would make me mop the kitchen floor. But as the dementia crept over her it changed that woman into messy Bessy.
It is common for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s to change personalities and habits which includes keeping clean. Mom went from doing the laundry faithfully to Dad taking over. I don’t recall if she could no longer remember how or if Dad took over for safety sake but whatever the reason was he was doing it…that is when he could get the clothes off of/away from her.
She would take clothes out of the hamper thinking they were ok to wear again or she would sleep in the clothing that she wore that entire day. The hair appointments slowed down until they ended and her hair was just there with no style at all. But bathing? I don’t know what Dad did to keep her clean and to be honest I was embarrassed to ask or to do anything about it.
Mom bathed me, I just couldn’t bring myself to bathe her. I was beyond weirded out – super awkwardness. The most I could do when I dared try to tidy her up was to get her into the bathroom by saying I wanted to brush her hair – or something along those lines – and then while talking to her constantly to keep her occupied and calm, I would do my best to give her a sponge bath… to an extent.
For those of you who have had children do you recall when your little ones loved playing in the water at bath time and then one day they were terrified of it or would have tantrums? Yep! Almost the same thing with adults with dementia. As I wasn’t about to try and cajole mom into the tub lest one of us (probably me) would get hurt I left it at a nice warm soapy wash cloth nice and I’d spot clean her face, neck, arms, under arms, and legs. Well, the legs if I could get her out of her pants which didn’t happen often; the shirt was a tough enough job to peel her out of that many was the time it was just whatever I could get to with pushing up sleeves.
But her private parts? I couldn’t do it! Just thinking about it I feel awkward. But it is very important that those parts of the body be cleaned because they are prone to the skin breaking down and becoming infected. Even more so if your loved one has or is beginning to have issues with incontinence. If you cannot afford to hire a home care worker who knows how to bathe someone with dementia and you have to do it, what can you do?
Here is a article from Caring.com which has some useful tips on how to deal with bathing mom (and dad too) which I found to be very helpful and informative. At the end of the article they mention that if your loved one really isn’t for bathing then you could talk to their doctor about anti-anxiety medication to help with the process. When mom entered the nursing home she became even worse about bathing, eating, and everything else because she was terrified! (more about that in the future) She was eventually prescribed some medication which they only gave her before bath time which, along with a kind nurses assistant, made bathing easier.
It’s a scary road to travel for you and your loved one. Don’t be hard on yourself; just keep trying until you find what works.