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Lewy Body Journal: Our Family's Experience with Lewy Body Disease
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13. Hygiene and Dental Care

Due to her limited range of movement and declining cognitive capacity, Mother wasn't able to wash herself. The aides washed her as she sat up in bed or, later on, as she lay in bed. We regularly bought supplies of liquid body wash, baby wipes, and disposable gloves.

Mother was never the type who liked to have people fuss over her, and that attitude continued after she became ill. Fussing over Mother's appearance, sometimes an aide would suddenly brush her hair or wipe her mouth, and Mother would complain. She also took to "protesting" nonverbally. For a few months, when an aide tended to her in the wheelchair, she would try to punch the aide. Due to her limited arm movements, this never became a serious problem, but we know the aides found it annoying. At other times, when the aide was holding Mother upright with one arm while tending to her with the other, Mother would try to bite the aide's shoulder. Perhaps, Mother's biggest protest was over the wheelchair's seat belt. The aides and Dad liked to have the belt buckled to make sure Mother didn't fall out of the chair. But, for some reason, Mother resisted by complaining about the seat belt or, on occasion, unbuckling it herself. After a few months, this behavior subsided.

"The aides had to brush Mother's teeth and her dental hygiene suffered"
Mother had always taken good care of her teeth, but now the aides had to brush them for her. Brushing another's person's teeth isn't easy. The aides clearly differed in how well they did it and how well they even tried. Some would make a good effort, while one in particular thought it was adequate to make two or three quick swipes with the toothbrush. Needless to say, Mother's teeth suffered. She had to have several large cavities filled and two teeth extracted.

To alleviate the situation, we got an electric toothbrush. A dental hygienist taught our primary aide how to do a better job, and Mother goes to the hygienist for a professional cleaning periodically.

The state of Mother's teeth is far from her worst problem. But after a lifetime of caring well for her teeth, it was indicative of how things had changed for her. She was completely dependent on the care of others.

12. "I Want to Die"
14. Slow Decline Continues
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