Caregiver's Home Companion Caring for someone who has trouble hearing the phone?

Posted July 25, 2005

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Elderly Behavior: Stubborn and Anti-Bath

Q. I am a caregiver for an 84-year-old male Alzheimer's patient. He is ambulatory (with a walker), dresses himself, feeds himself and performs other small tasks on his own. However, I cannot get him to take a shower no matter what I do or say. He offers a million different reasons why he can't or won't -- it's too cold (90 degrees where we are today), his knees hurt, he took one yesterday, on and on and on.

I keep a daily log of his activities and events so I know that as of today it has been seven weeks since his last shower. He is a very big man (over 6 feet tall), so there is no way I can physically do it. However, it is becoming both a health risk and really offensive since he frequently urinates on himself and the smell sometimes is overwhelming. Any suggestions or ideas as to what I can do? (I care for him in a private home not a nursing facility). Any suggestions welcome.

Bonnie S., Gallipolis, Ohio.

A. You may want to contact several nursing care agencies in your area and ask about the availability of "bath visits."  A "bath visit" is usually a 1- to 2-hour visit billed at a flat rate. I always recommend this under the circumstances you describe because a person from outside the family often has more luck getting someone to bathe. The bath aides also have experience in dealing with reluctant bathers. You may need to have two aides come in together for the first few visits until a routine is established with the patient.  My best wishes! 

This answer is provided by Paula P. Tchirkow, MSW , LSW, ACSW, president of Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Geriatric Consultants and a certified and licensed geriatric care manager. She specializes in geriatric care management for elderly parents and relatives, and middle-aged adults who have chronic illnesses. In addition to working with families, she also works with attorneys, financial advisors, physicians, bank trust officers and human resource directors. She can be reached at



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