One of the most frequent vents I see from family caregivers is their frustration with getting their loved one to bathe.
I, too, used to have this same frustration when Grandma came home from rehab six years ago. At that point, it was obvious that she was going to need assistance with bathing.
Since then, I’ve learned something. This may come as a shock to you, but here it is:
Old people don’t need to take a bath everyday.
(Neither do you, unless you’re in manual labor or on your cycle, but that’s another story…)
Not even every other day.
If you can get your loved one to take a bath at least once a week, you’re winning.
Think about it.
I used to think my grandma needed to take a bath at least twice a week. Then it dawned on me.
She almost never sweats. She doesn’t do much except sit in a chair or lay in bed.
Unless they are out running marathons or playing in the mud, old people just don’t need to take a bath that much.
Personal hygiene has changed a lot since the days our grandparents (and even parents) were young. Even though many of us shower several times a week or even daily, back in the “good old days,” it was completely normal to take a bath once a week and just wash up a little in between.
I know it is not easy when our priorities don’t line up with those of our loved ones. Instead of getting upset with your loved one… telling them they stink or making them feel like a piece of crap, try a little compassion and empathy. Put yourself in their shoes.
When you get older, showering can be:
- Humiliating. It is kind of embarrassing to require assistance as it is, but when you have to get booty butt naked and have someone touching and rubbing you all over, it is a whole new ball game.
- Painful. Hot water spraying against your skin and even just getting in and out of the shower, standing for prolonged periods, reaching… all of the movement required to take a bath can be very uncomfortable if you live with any kind of pain or stiffness on a daily basis.
- Terrifying. If you have fallen in the shower before, you know that it can be frightening to approach the spraying water and the slippery floor. Hell, my grandma even fell in the shower while I was right there with her! Showering has its hazards, no matter how many safeguards you put into place.
My advice is to build bath time into the routine so it becomes a natural part of daily activities. Choose a time where both you and your loved one are typically relaxed. You can try a reward for once the bath/shower has happened, like going out for a ride or lunch… or watching their favorite show.
I recently read an approach that a wise caregiver on Facebook, Sugar, posted regarding her experience with her mom. I like her strategy better and am going to start using it in our daily activitites.
“…I give my mom choices. Not like ‘yes or no’ choices but more like ‘this or that’ choices. The thing is, This and That are both things I need done or she should be doing. Example:
“Okay, momma! Let’s get to it. You want to shower,
or have lunch?”
“Ma, we need to either get you changed or wash
your hair. Which one would you like to do?”
Eventually through the day I get down to only a this or a that, and if she refuses the last task, I figure at that point we get an A for the day and a long as she has her knickers fresh and her belly at least partially full, I am happy.“
At the end of the day, if your LO is defensive when it comes to getting clean, throw in the towel. Your 70 or 80 something elder has earned the right to choose not to take a bath. Surviving caregiving means knowing when to pick your battles.
As long as they are comfortable, safe, and don’t offend (and by the way, there is cologne/perfume for that), I say let it go. I’m sure you have enough to worry about as it is.