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Baby Boomer Real Story Series 4 - Woo Hoo! Bath is Done!

November 14th, 2010
Story #4 - “Bath is done”! There are many steps to the bathing process and when dealing with Mom who has dementia, each step is an opportunity for dispute.

Baby Boomer Real Story Series 4
Woo Hoo! Bath is Done!
by Jeannie Lange

What a simple phrase, 
                      “bath is done”! 

But to a caregiver it is cause for celebration, even if it has to be a silent one. 

There are many steps to the bathing process and when dealing with Mom who has dementia, each step is an opportunity for dispute. 

The first, and most crucial, is the notification.  If I can get through that, we can usually get through the bathing without incident.


I’ve learned that a happy but quiet tone of voice when saying, “Mom, this morning we will wash your hair and then do a bath”, is helpful.  It is not a sure thing, however. 

The response may be an easy, “Alright” for which I give an immediate and silent prayer of thanks.  It may be a “What??” meaning she doesn’t comprehend the statement and explanation is needed.  I may get the response, “I just did that yesterday” when, in fact, it has been a week and I will need to convince her of that. 

Once in awhile, the dreaded response, the one no caregiver likes to confront, is the all out war that can ensue.

All out war can involve yelling, cussing and even physical abuse of the caregiver.  Thankfully Mom has never gotten physical but I have dealt with the rest.  None of these were typical behaviors for Mom when I was growing up.  I honestly don’t remember my mom or dad ever yelling other than to call us in from outside. 

She has definitely found her voice in dementia!

Although curse words were also seldom heard when I was growing up, ironically the few times I did hear them were from Mom, typically on a Sunday on the way home from church.  She only had two, hell and damn, both very mild in the range of words available but at the time, I had not heard any others. 

Now it seems only one is needed when she goes into battle mode. 

She yells at me to “Get away, damn it!” or “I don’t want to, damn it!” 

I’ve learned to do my best to remain calm and quietly remind her that her mother taught her to bathe once a week.  Sometimes I have to pull the doctor into it and tell her he said that she must bathe once a week. 

I bring to battle all my options for persuasion, all the while doing my best to remain calm and speak quietly.

I haven’t always succeeded in my attempt to remain calm in those situations.  A few times I have yelled back.  Even though I have ultimately won each battle, it’s those times that I have lost my composure that have taught me the most. 

In this switch of roles I know that Mom, if she were able, would forgive me and be proud that I am learning.

Next week, the switch of roles becomes evident in our daily activities.

 Jeannie Lange, born in southwestern Ohio, has made her home in Kentucky with her husband, Steve. Their four grown children and their families live nearby. She retired from the insurance industry at the age of 55 to take care of her 94 year old mother 24x7.

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