My mom won't bathe.
August 15, 2012 6:42 AM Subscribe
Ideas to help a mom who won't shower or bathe. Lots more details inside.
posted by odayoday to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My mom has some fairly serious mental health issues. She attempted suicide last year, and was committed for several weeks in an institution. Since her release she has been living with her sister (my aunt) and receiving weekly visits from a county social worker, as well as semi-regular visits with a psychiatrist. She is prescribed an antidepressant and anti-psychotic, but I don't believe she's ever taken them both regularly. Several weeks ago she confessed that she had stopped taking her meds, and her social worker is now more closely monitoring them. I think she's taking them regularly now, but it's very hard to tell for sure. I live an hour away, so I can't check on her everyday, and while my aunt will ask her if she took them, she will not physically stand and watch my mom take them, so I'm only assuming mom is medicated, but I'm hoping the closer monitoring by the social worker will help sort it out.
The issue I'm asking about now is the fact that my mom resists/refuses to take showers or baths unless I am there to make her. Part of her mental health issue is that she believes she is covered in feces, and that showering or bathing only spreads it around further. She said she has a pervasive smell that also causes food to rot, so she only eats when encouraged to by others. It's complicated by the fact that she does seem to have frequent diarrhea, and so feels she's not clean because she isn't able to adequately (in her mind) clean it off. It would seem that the obvious solution to this problem would be to bathe/shower MORE, but as I said, she says it only makes it worse. When I visit her she will resist showering, but ultimately do it if I stand in the bathroom with her. As I said, though, I live an hour away, and am about to start my third semester of grad school, so I'm not able to go more than once a week (or ideally every two weeks) to get her to shower. I'm also very frustrated by the fact that the only way she will do it is if I'm there, and I don't quite know if there's a better way to reason with her that might get her to do it on her own. I've tried explaining that even if SHE doesn't feel clean, her showering makes my aunt and I happy, and could she just do it for that reason, but apparently that's not enough. I hope that if she's on her meds long enough they might help at least somewhat sort out her thinking, but I don't feel there's any guarantee that will happen. My aunt is very frustrated, and I'm afraid she might at some point decide my mom can't live with her any more if my mom continues to refuse to cooperate.
So, any suggestions on how I might work with my mom to try to get her to shower without me having to supervise her would be great. My only idea is to go myself once a week and watch her, but that's very difficult with my grad school/internship schedule, and also not ideal in terms of cleanliness, obviously. Thank you for wading through this very long post, and any ideas are greatly appreciated!