How to Help A Parent Who Refuses to Bathe or Shower

How to Help A Parent Who Refuses to Bathe or Shower

With advancing age, our parents—or loved one—may be reluctant to shower or bathe. Though disease and illness are often to blame, there are many other reasons we may never understand.

Unfolding the Mystery Behind the “Bathing Battle”

Here’s a list of some reasons the elderly may have for not bathing:

  • They may experience pain while standing, bending or sitting.
  • They may have a fear of water and/or its sound—this is especially true for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • They may fear falling on hard   bathroom due to poor balance.
  • If the water temperature is too warm or cool, they may hesitate because of a fear of discomfort.
  • Both standing for a shower or getting in and out of a bathtub can be very difficult for the elderly and they may be fearful of it.
  • The simple task of bathing or showering can be an exhausting task for the elderly.


Solve the “Bathing Battle” with these tips

Bathing regularly and maintaining personal hygiene is key to staying healthy and refreshed. Not showering or bathing for several days can lead to infections, which become increasingly difficult to treat in the elderly. Understanding the problem and helping our loved one bathe should be the goal.

Tips to Help Get Your Loved One to Bathe or Shower

Try talking about it

Communication is key to understanding the actual reasons behind not bathing. You need to determine if it’s a function of fear, pain, discomfort or simple forgetfulness. In many cases, it may just be they simply don’t want to.

Ask their healthcare provider

When a conversation doesn’t help, contacting a healthcare provider may help you determine the actual reason someone refuses to bathe. He/she can help you understand the ins and outs of their medical condition and may provide you with alternatives to bathing…such as a sponge bath.

Set reminders for the patient

If dementia is the reason for not bathing, you can prepare notes to post around the house. Stick them on bathroom doors or walls to remind them to shower or bathe.

Ask family and friends to help

If your loved one continues to enjoy the company of family and friends, try getting them involved too. For example—if your parent is in no mood to shower or bathe, have a friend call inviting them to go out. Your parent may be so excited about spending time out of the house, they may just want to quickly shower or bathe to get ready to leave for a day out.

Purchase shower equipment

Bathing or showering can become an exhausting experience for the elderly and getting in and out of the bathtub can be difficult. To make it a comfortable and enjoyable experience, consider purchasing a shower chair or bath lift chair. Having a grab bar installed can instill a sense of security. And, of course, a rubber mat helps prevent accidental falls in the bathroom.

Be patient and go slow

Most people don’t like being rushed, and as people age, they are more likely to want to do everything at their own pace. So, be advised—go slow and allow them to do things in their own time.

Be encouraging

If your loved one is reluctant to bathe, no kind of reasoning with him/her will work, so we need to get creative and come up with ways to encourage them to bathe. It doesn’t help at all to push them because they might become rebellious and refuse to listen to you at all.

Some More Tips & Tools for Getting Your Loved One to Bathe

Give them choices

Rather than instructions, begin a conversation by asking whether they’d like to bathe or shower? Try giving them the option of bathing right away or after having their breakfast or watching their favorite TV program.

Study their reaction

When you take your loved one to the bathroom, fill the tub with 2-3 inches of water—or turn on the shower—and wait for their reaction. If they become agitated, drop the idea of bathing them that day. If, however, they seem comfortable, fill in more water after they’ve gotten in.

A soothing distraction

Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s can find bathing threatening. Sometimes, planning a distraction ahead of time—something as simple as soothing music—can calm them down.

Respect their privacy

While helping our loved ones bathe, respect their privacy and keep them covered with a towel or robe. Be flexible and understanding. If a parent wants to get into the tub with their clothes on, let them. The goal is to get them involved in the experience. When they’re engaged, they will enjoy bath time.


Refusal to bathe is just one concern facing family caregivers, but we need to understand that as they age, it is harder and harder to satisfy our loved ones. Therefore, to get the job done, we need to stay patient and go slow. Remember, communication is key to determining the exact reason for the refusal to shower or bathe. Getting to the root of the problem will lead us to the steps we need to take to make bath time comfortable and even enjoyable for them.


How To Manage and Organize Activities of Daily Living

How To Manage and Organize Activities of Daily Living

As Our Loved Ones Age

All things considered, aging is a natural process that affects our daily living and self-care. We recognize that with old age, many problems and disease condition set in, making it difficult for loved ones to carry out their basic activities of daily living, also referred to as ADL.

Some of ADL that become challenging with aging and illness are:

  • Dressing
  • Personal grooming
  • Toileting
  • Moving in and out of bed or chair
  • Walking
  • Climbing stairs
  • Maintaining a safe environment
  • Eating


Instrumental Activities of Daily Living

Health experts have categorized another group called IADL—these complex activities require some expertise and decision-making skills:

  • Shopping
  • Laundry
  • Housekeeping
  • Cooking
  • Driving
  • Banking
  • Using public transportation
  • Handling medical emergencies
  • Taking and preparing medications
  • Finance management
  • Social activities


Knowing When We Need Help

Regrettably, as our loved ones are affected by various illnesses, they often find it difficult to carry out their daily routine tasks.

Seeking some form of help from family caregivers or a professional in-home service, can provide much needed relief and support. Let your loved ones manage their lives as long as they can.

The idea is for your loved one to live an active, productive, healthy lifestyle as long as possible. There are tools and exercises to maintain and increase their independence and support both ADL and IADL:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Strength training
  • Balance exercises
  • Brain games
  • Ergonomic equipment and devices


Occupational Therapy

In occupational therapy, our loved ones learn to exercise on a regular basis in order to maintain their functional independence. This refers to one’s capacity and capability to carry out their daily activities with minimum help from caregivers.
Furthermore, the lifelong benefits of exercise, strength training and balance exercises on a regular basis can ensure our loved ones enjoy lifelong benefits, and continue to independently handle their daily activities with ease.


4 Basic Necessities

  • Balance
  • Coordiation
  • Speed
  • Strength

Our loved ones should develop the habit of exercising regularly and continue with the practice. As well as helping them carry out their ADL, it will enable them to stay active. Exercise and occupational therapy are more of a necessity if our loved ones are frail. OT can significantly reduce their dependence on help from others.


Brain Games

Prospective memory is a form of memory that involved remembering to perform a planned action or recall a planned intention at a future point in time and successfully carry our these instrumental activities. I’ve found, in my practice, that brain games significantly improve prospective memory and IADL.


Some Brain Games to Try

  • Memory Card Games
  • Computer Applications
  • Board Games
  • Puzzles
  • Reading

In general, the more enjoyable the activity, the easier it will be to get your loved one to try it. Sensorial stimulation can increase their ability to remain mentally independent. Each activity should be tailored to their abilities and interests. Keep their hands exercised, strong and limber. It will make it easier for them to do so many of the activities listed above.


Equipment and Devices

  • Canes and Walkers
  • Grab Bars
  • Raised Toilet Seats
  • Special Eating Utensils
  • Ergonomic Writing Pens
  • Magnifying Glass
  • Hearing Aids

In conclusion, figuring out your loved ones difficulties before there is a problem can make independence a lot easier for them and for their loved ones.

  • Practice ambulation. Use a cane of walker to maintain their balance when    needed.
  • Install grab bars throughout the house—in hallways, the kitchen and bath for stability.
  • Purchase special eating utensils for proper control
  • For loved ones with arthritis, there’s a special pen that will ease difficulty writing.
  • Purchase a magnifying glass to help them see more clearly.
  • See a doctor to be fitted for a hearing aid.