A Care Giver Asks: Why Does Mom Refuse to Enter the Bathroom?

This caregiver went on to say,  I’m having big problem. Mom refuses to enter the bathroom at all. She stops at the entrance and will not move.  She wears Depends  so toileting isn’t the issue. She refuses to go in to take a shower or even to wash her hands or brush her teeth.  I am baffled by this new behavior and don’t know what to do about it.”

The only constant in dementia care is that things can and do change, often at a moment’s notice. What is important for us to remember is that we have to enter their world.

Here are a few suggestions that may help:

Enter the bathroom and look around as if seeing it for the first time.

What do you see?

Is there a large mirror reflecting your image? People with dementia often don’t recognize themselves in a mirror. The old man or woman reflected in the glass can be frightening when memory has taken her or him back in time.

An easy fix for this is to cover the mirror with a towel.

 What do you hear?  

The acoustics in bathrooms often result in echoes when people speak in loud voices or the taps are turned on.Play some soft, soothing music to cover the everyday sounds we have become accustomed to.

What do you feel?

Is it a bit chilly and damp?Use a space heater to make sure the room is warm. Towels and washcloths should be soft and fluffy.  Older people have thin, often sensitive skin.

What do you smell?

A mix of aromas from soaps, shampoo, lotions, and perfumes may overwhelm someone with dementia. Try switching to scentless products and see if it makes a difference.

One or more of these suggestions could work for you and the person in your care. If not, it may be time to let go of traditional bathing and oral hygiene and go to bedside baths with a cloth and a basin of warm water and switching to a soft sponge oral hygiene swab instead of a toothbrush.

Bobbi Carducci

 

 

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