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Often the parent will say he or she is bathing, yet the tub or shower has cracked soap that is shrinking, showing no sign of use in weeks, if not months. There may also be no towels or used clothing in the laundry.

Do not be dismayed if this is your situation.   It is not uncommon; in fact, we see this all the time.  There are reasons why individuals stop bathing daily, the way most working adults do.

  • Their senses may not be as acute as yours, and they cannot see or smell like they once did. 

  • They are no longer exercising, working in the yard, or doing any physical activity.

  • They may not remember to bathe, or they believe they actually did.

  • They have a fear of slipping or falling while getting into or out of the tub/shower.  If they have fallen once, they will be less likely to try again.  Everyone has heard broken hip stories, and they are even more terrifying when they are statistically more likely to be a part of one's reality as age increases.

  • They have pain. Old joints are often quite stiff and painful.  They may not be able to lift their leg over the tub.  Those arthritic joints are not the most stable.

  • They may be somewhat depressed about things.  Loss and loneliness are real and are not to be minimized.  Bathing when you have no plans or place to go may seem purposeless to some.

  • Spot bathing at the sink is quite common. 

If one or more of the above describes your situation, there are tactful ways to address the situation. 

A complete bath 1-2 times a week may be just fine. Weekly bathing is adequate for a woman who is not having urine or bowel accidents and has her hair washed at a salon.  Bathing at the sink for arm pits and bottom should be a daily occurrence at a minimum, though.

So, how do you maneuver the situation?  With all honesty and compassion say, “Mom you are not using the tub/shower anymore, let’s explore what we can do to make it easier for you.  I know how good a bath can feel.” Make a declarative statement based on observed facts.  Then state that you will help solve the issue, whatever it is.  In some cases it will be grab bars, in other cases it will be the assistance of another human.

Know that you may need to bring up bathing more than one time to resolve the issue.  You might get outright denial at first, but you will get past it if you are accurate and helpful. Be persistent and kind.

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