Social Question

jca's avatar

Have you ever heard of any adult whose skin is so dry (for whatever reason) that they need to take sponge baths on an ongoing basis, for long periods of time?

Asked by jca (35976points) August 18th, 2015

I have a good friend of mine who has recently suffered some trauma (death of a loved one) and now has extreme anxiety and is also a hypochondriac. She visits several doctors per week, often for the same ailments, usually for very minor ailments. She goes to urgent care probably ever weekend, as she can’t wait until Monday to get her issues checked out.

Anyway, she states she has been taking sponge baths every day, and only showering about twice a week, as her skin is very dry (she says).

I told her that she should double check with her dermatologists (she has several dermatologists and will often visit more than one for the same issue). Maybe they are not aware that she feels a need for sponge baths. Maybe they assume that she is no longer taking sponge baths. She has stated to me several times that sponge baths are a lot of work (she says she needs the water to be a certain temperature or it burns her skin and she checks it with three thermometers). She said she is often late for work because her morning routine is very time consuming, with the sponge baths, multiple creams and all kinds of stuff for her various medical conditions (imaginary or real, I’m not sure). I suggested that a five minute shower daily is not going to have a detrimental effect on her skin, no matter how dry it is.

The whole thing seems like overkill, to me. It sounds disgusting. Sponge baths are for people who are incapacitated, either bed bound or with something like a broken limb where bathing may be difficult.

I’m not arguing with her and I’m not pushing the issue with her as it’s her life and her body. I’m just curious if anybody has ever heard of anyone with such an issue as dry skin where sponge baths are necessary on a long term basis

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38 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I would assume she has had her thyroid checked since she has been to the doctor so much, but if not that would be my first suggestion. Also, iron levels.

Bathing might be drying her skin. Removing oils that would help. Is her water hard where she lives? NY generally has a nice level of softness.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: She claims her thyroid is good and she is post-menopausal (mid-50’s). She lives in a small city so her water is from there, and it’s good. If I don’t shower once a day I feel gross, and if I were her I’d be asking the doctor “is this really necessary?” I’m betting the answer would be “no.”

JLeslie's avatar

My guess is it won’t matter much what a doctor says. She feels she has multiple things wrong and the doctors aren’t finding anything, so they aren’t any help probably in her perception. Even though she keeps going to doctors. Maybe I am wrong about that dynamic? I feel like doctors don’t help me, so I avoid them usually. I can’t avoid them too much though, unfortunately. I do need them for some issues.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: You made reference to her “bathing.” She’s not bathing she’s doing sponge bath, which means a wet cloth on the “important parts” and that’s about it. To me, on a long term basis = gross.

jca's avatar

I think at this point her problems are more psychological, although she does not think so. Her friends are all at the breaking point because her arguing and insisting she’s sick and going on and on about her medical issues (real or perceived) is really tiring.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, gosh, I read through too fast. Is she using soap and water for the sponge bath? I can’t imagine only showering twice a week like that for weeks on end.

jca's avatar

@JLeslie: I think it’s soap and water, although if I know her and her neuroses, it’s probably special soap that she’s given a lot of thought to LOL.

JLeslie's avatar

I think she has some psych stuff going on, but it would surprise me if she has real physical things going on too.

If she is wiping down with some sort of prepackaged wet wipe it might be very harsh.

Buttonstc's avatar

It sounds like she needs a good Psychiatrist more than anything else. But she likely would not welcome you making that suggestion so there’s not a whole lot left for you other than to listen to her or avoid her :)

JLeslie's avatar

I think a shrink would be good for her, but not regarding the physical problems she is experiences. Just handling her depression and recent traumatic events.

jca's avatar

@Buttonstc: Yeah she is now on Klonapin and something else. She has diagnosis of PTSD. She’s definitely not the friend we used to know and she’s what we all call “crazy.” She describes herself as “somewhat anxious about her medical issues” which is very much an understatement. She will talk for an hour about some issue and the remedy, and then when we see her we ask if we can see it (for example, an infection on her eyelid which she had seen multiple doctors for) and she says “oh, you’re not going to see it. It’s very tiny.” Okaaaaay. Meanwhile, she’d talk for an hour about it if you let her.

Buttonstc's avatar

Yeah, I hear you. She’s obviously OCDish about all her health “problems” and until one of her Drs. spots it and persuades her to see a shrink (or she runs out of money for Drs. visits) it doesn’t look like much will change unfortunately.

jca's avatar

She is seeing a shrink, and gets her psych meds from him (Klonapin and something else for anxiety). She said the first shrink she saw left the room and she got up and read what he wrote on his pad, and he wrote “patient is delusional.” Of course, she does not think she is.

JLeslie's avatar

She needs a therapist who takes her seriously.

Buttonstc's avatar

Oh, wow. Well if the shrink can’t help then it’s unlikely anyone else has a better shot.

But it just gets back to two choices for the rest of you. Either listen to her litany or be seeing a lot less of her unfortunately.

jca's avatar

@Buttonstc: We’re all seeing less of her. I find her hard to tolerate. She will monopolize a dinner or phone call with her medical issues. It’s almost like she feels entitled, if that makes any sense. Like she’s enjoying having the issues to talk about. It’s hard to describe.

Buttonstc's avatar

It definitely makes sense (that she has to monopolize the time with her litany of woes) it gets her attention and concern.

But being around someone like that is very draining and unhealthy for those around her. People are only going to tolerate it for so long and then realize that it’s extracting too much of an emotional toll upon them.

cazzie's avatar

I don’t think the problem is with her skin. Wow. Poor lady. Sounds just an awful way to live.

cazzie's avatar

Older people can get by on two showers a week just fine. Especially if she is washing the necessaries every day and using deodorant. Just a few generations ago, we only washed once a week. When she is showering I worry what she has been using that is drying her skin. Have you seen her? Does it look dry?

jca's avatar

@cazzie: She looks ok to me but I’m only seeing her face and arms, really. I don’t see any flaking skin so I don’t know. She says her eyes are dry, everything. It could be a result of menopause, I am not sure how bad things get.

janbb's avatar

As Americans, we over-focus on hyper-cleanliness. Not everyone needs to shower once a day (and probably won’t be able to once water gets rationed.) This is just another bizarre symptom of her psychological illness. Has she been to a bereavement counselor or group? She needs as much psychological help as she can get. Has she talked to you about her grief rather tnan her illnesses?

jca's avatar

@janbb: I don’t believe she has been to grief counseling but I am not positive. She has not really shared with me her grieving. She has said in the beginning how tough it was, and then it started with the medical issues. Some have speculated that she took her anxiety from dealing with the loved one’s medical issues and took that anxiety inward. Now it’s one medical issue to another. One week it’s this, and then a week or two later it’s another thing. Nothing life threatening but she has stated more than once that she believes she is going to die and has made arrangements for her funeral and belongings. Meanwhile, all the times I have had medical issues (few and far between but still, more drastic than hers), I’ve not discussed them in the detail I get from her about her dryness, eyes, skin, teeth, belly button, urination, constipation, you name it. I hear it all and it’s not pretty LOL.

stanleybmanly's avatar

If she doesn’t smell or appear “dirty”, whatever regimen she’s on appears to be doing the trick. Ask her if she can put herself in your position, listening to her drone on for hours about her “conditions” without a shred of visible evidence.

Here2_4's avatar

My son seemed to have a similar issue when he was young. It turned out he is allergic to soap. We were recommended a list of soaps which are free of fragrance, or rinse very well. He is clean and happy, and has been for years.
As to what @janbb said about over bathing, she is absolutely correct. It was the popularity of television which brought on obsession with soaps, shampoos, conditioners, oilslotionscreamsmasqueshairgrease and such. In early American life, many places people were not allowed a bath without a prescription. Even after droughts passed, a bath was a luxury
https://thehistoricpresent.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/people-in-colonial-times-never-took-baths/
A sponge bath might not be everyone’s favorite, but it isn’t criminal or necessarily unhealthy.

Mostly this link isn’t about bathing, only a little. I sure found portions of it amusing though.
maybe some of you will.

This woman has other issues, and dealing with them will take a lot of patience. Those who haven’t the patience to get there with her should stay clear of her until she is stronger.

Here2_4's avatar

So, I didn’t get my second link on there. Old old laws in some cases, and a couple dealing with bathing. Enjoy the laughs.
http://www.brandeslaw.com/Lighter/lawsob.htm

kimchi's avatar

I have very dry skin. I need to put on sunscreen every time I go out. But what works is every night before bed, I put on regular ol’ Costco lotion and scrub that on my whole body. You have to rub throughly. It works for me.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Is this the same lady you only text, because talking to her drives you crazy??
hate to say but now I see why.
P.S I still dislike texting,but can see with A person like this it might be a good thing!

jca's avatar

@SQUEEKY2: Yes. Good recall. She will spend an hour talking about the most minute little issue or whether or not she should buy this eye wash or that eye wash, back and forth, back and forth.

anniereborn's avatar

It sounds like she def needs to see a therapist. Most of the time psychiatrists and therapists do different things. So seeing just a psychiatrist doesn’t sound like it will do the trick. She needs attention and someone to listen to her. That much is clear.

jca's avatar

I’m a big believer that we’re too sanitary and using anti-bacterials all the time, and people on here have mentioned not wanting their silverware to touch the bare table in restaurants and stuff like that. In the case of someone with my friend’s issue, however, I can’t see what difference a 5 minute shower would make as far as having an extremely detrimental effect. Especially when it takes so much extra time and effort to do sponge bath, I would just jump in the shower if I were her.

As far as her mental issues, I hope she gets the help she needs. She’s lucky she has a government job where she’s hard to fire, because she looks crazy and acts crazy, and takes a lot of time off for her many doctor visits. She didn’t used to look this way or act this way, and fortunately for her, she’s been doing her job long enough that she could probably do it with her eyes closed.

Here2_4's avatar

Suggest to her that she check into soap alternatives. It took us some research, and a few tries, but my son is much happier for it.

janbb's avatar

Her physical issues = her mental issues at this point, it sounds like. You won’t be able to talk her out of them logically.

cazzie's avatar

I just had a thought. Before her loss, was she the sort of person who loved a bath and a shower and spent money on nice things for the bath? Her created illness of not being able to bathe could be connected to a cycle of self-punishment based on her feelings of bereavement. Often, people feel guilty for feelings of happiness and pleasure after the loss of someone close.

cazzie's avatar

same with her health. She probably has very very deep seated guilt for having any feeling of wellness or happiness.

anniereborn's avatar

She may also have become a hypochondriac due to being scared she will die, as she had someone so close to her do.

jca's avatar

@cazzie: I don’t think so. She never mentioned baths or luxuriating in the shower or anything like that. I have friends that I know are into their baths, and I’m not into that but I am a soap addict, as far as scents and nice stuff. Her, I don’t think so. It is a good theory though. She has so many medical issues and I probably don’t know all of them, and don’t keep track as some of them are so minor.

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