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Posted: February 20, 2006

Practical Caregiving

Many Causes for Lack of Motivation in Elderly

Getting older and staying motivated can be a daunting task at times. Just think how we, as caregivers, feel when we try to stay motivated in our busy lives, day in and day out. Tough, right?
Tammy has concerns about her grandmother who seems to have lost her motivation and has let her own personal hygeine go. She's looking for answers, and recently wrote me for advice. Let's see if I can help.
Dear Jean:
My Mom takes care of my grandmother who is 80 years old and has trouble walking or standing for very long. She used to take a shower every other day but now she waits weeks before showering now. Her hair looks really oily, and this bothers my Mom. My Mom says she doesn't feel she can say "You need to take a shower" because my grandmother will start to cry -- and my Mom hates to make her cry.
We know she has said before it takes too much to stand and shower, and my Mom offered to go and buy her a shower seat, but my grandmother refuses to let her to buy one. We know the reason she can't stand is because she never gets up and moves around -- her muscles are weak. She sits on the couch all day, every day. She has even started wearing Depends so she doesn't have to go to the bathroom.
My mother is very frustrated and doesn't know what to do. My grandmother is still in her right mind and doesn't like to be questioned or crossed. Can you give us any advice as to how we can get her to shower more often? Thanks.
Tammy D., Senoia, Georgia
Dear Tammy:
Sitting on a couch all the time will cause your mother’s muscles (and other parts of her body) to deteriorate and atrophy. When I was taking care of my parents, I didn't get the exercise I needed for two years. I stayed in the house with them all the time. After they died I found I had trouble walking into a grocery store if I wasn't parked close. My digestive system was starting to have problems, also.
But what are the reasons for her not getting up and moving about? Normally a person doesn't just decide to sit on the couch all day and not get up. It usually starts because of some problem. Has she had a good physical examination? Even if she has, I would have her get another one, perhaps from a different doctor. Talk to the doctor about this problem before the appointment. You can call him (or his nurse if you can't talk to him directly) and tell him your concerns.
Perhaps your grandmother has had a few tiny strokes, or is in the starting stages of demenitia. Not wanting to take a shower is a common problem when the mind starts having problems. They used to call it senility.
Or, perhaps she is having problems with her heart, and that's what started the weakness. Or, perhaps she is anemic. Or, perhaps she isn’t eating right.
Or, perhaps she is depressed. Not taking care of herself can be one sign of depression. This can be a common problem as people age. They start to wonder about their future and say "What's the use?" This needs to be watched carefully. 
Or, perhaps she isn’t taking her medications when she should.
As you see, there are many possible causes, but I think if you can get your grandmother on her feet a bit, getting her into the shower will become more realistic.
Please write back. If you can tell me more about her health; I might have better suggestions.

© 2006 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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