When Mom or Dad Refuses to Bath

Seniors who were once clean and well dressed adults commonly refuse to take showers and wear fresh clothes. There are a few contributing factors that you can take into consideration when approaching this issue. 

1. Depression is common amongst seniors. Parents who no longer take an interest in personal hygiene or wearing clean clothes may be struggling with depression. A checkup with a doctor to discuss their mood and low energy is a good first step. 

2. As people age, they lose more and more control over their lives. One area they may feel that they can assert their independence is around bathing. It is a difficult transition for seniors to be told when and how often to perform tasks that they routinely accomplished independently their whole life. Take into account their need for autonomy by offering options such as which day or time of day they prefer to bathe.

3. Seniors do not have the same sense of smell as they once had. They may not pick up on odors in their house, on their partner or even when they may be less than fresh. A gentle respectful nudge may be necessary. 

4. When our days are no longer marked by work or activities it becomes more difficult to gage time. A senior’s memory isn’t what it once was and they may forget or misjudge the last time they bathed. A conveniently placed calendar can help your loved one keep track of their baths. 

5. It is not uncommon for individuals in this day and age to bath daily. During our parents youth it would have been unheard of to bath so frequently. At a time when families were large and a one-bathroom house was typical a daily bath would have been an unrealistic luxury. Considering their prior bathing schedules and not our own is considerate.

6. As seniors lose mobility and strength, fear of falling, injury and being alone and helpless is a real and legitimate concern. It seems reasonable to avoid tasks where there is risk. As caregivers we must assure their safety by supervising bathing or having professional support assist in the supervision.

7. Seniors may feel great discomfort having a family member assist them during bath time. Bathing is a very intimate and personal task that many people consider highly private. Insuring that they are afforded, as much privacy as their abilities allow is respectful and comforting. 

Well it is never an easy decision to reach out for help, timely in-home care by a familiar and trusted caregiver can be a welcome relief to both family caregivers and their loved ones by easing the awkwardness and discomfort around these very personal challenges.