My Dirty Little Secret


My Dirty Little Secret

Jan-First PhotoOkay, all you brilliant Caregivers "R" Us out there. Here's my situation (certainly not a "dilemma", more like an "issue" or as significant as an amoeba on a flea on a rat):

Every single day my mother (with dementia) and I fight over doing the dishes. I can't sort this out. As soon as she's done eating, she leaps up from the table and starts "doing" the dishes. That means running copious amounts of cold water (and as a Love Child from the first Earth Day in 1970, that just irks me), swishing the plate around and then immediately drying it and putting it away any place she can find. More recently she has been doing this "cursory cold-water flick" under the faucet with one hand and a paper towel wiping with the other, quick as a flash.

You don't notice you have a problem until you've committed your mug to the last Mesa Sunrise K-Cup you've got on hand and it's full of cat hair and mayonnaise chunks.

I understand her need to contribute, to control, to be helpful, to be obsessive-compulsive. I cannot finish any meal in peace without jumping up after her. It accelerates into a complete war when I now have to start doing all the dishes, which become a complete jumble with her putting dirty dishes in with clean, drying the dirty dishes, re-cleaning the clean ones, re-dirtying the clean and dirty ones and drying them all and putting them someplace else.

It's a daily dish cleaning marathon and wouldn't be so bad but she refuses to use soap or hot water on anything. I've tried using different kinds of dish drainers, moved the drainers from the left to the right (she's right-handed). She just moved them back and mixed it all up again. I made large waterproof signs to keep the dirty apart from the clean. I make a Great Wall of China out of the dirty dishes and loudly instruct her to put clean on the other side of The Wall.

She pays no attention. What could be so simple turns into an extensive battle.

I wouldn't care if she and I were just little old ladies spreading salmonella to each other, but we aren't. I host other people here frequently. And I do have some standards, and I'm not going to get up at midnight and re-wash all my dishes just to keep the family peace.

What am I missing here? Any suggestions? Besides getting paper plates or buying a dishwasher or just rejoicing that she can get up and move at all.

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Maybe you can give her something else to do vacuum or another chore\nThis will distract her from the dishes....


Dementia can be so frustrating. I hope and pray you find a solution. My Mom has unloaded a dirty load from the dishwasher..........Fortunately, she does not realize she is in her house and she asks before drying, putting away, or washing dishes. I like Richards ideas; divert and distract...............God Bless.


I was going to say paper plates! What a pain this must be. Would she understand, \"I'll wash and you dry\"? Maybe, fill the sink with hot soapy water before eating so there's a chance the dishes will go in? But there's more to washing dishes than that. . . I'll be checking back to see if you get the right solution. Good luck to you! It would drive me crazy. A friend of mine likes to say, \"It's not the lions and tigers and bears that get you; it's the mosquitoes.\"


Thank you for reading my post, JMK, and your solution sounds like an easy one to try, so I will. I really appreciate it.


Jan, I love the way you write, and I was laughing out loud reading your post. It reminded me of the time my mom loaded the washing machine with the pots and pans and turned it on. \r\n\r\nBut I do understand how frustrating that situation has to be. I can't think of anything unless there is a way to find another task for her to do after meals that will get her out of the kitchen. My mom and mother-in-law (both had dementia) both loved to fold towels. I would get clean hand towels from the closet and throw them in basket and ask if they could help me out by folding them.