What can help a germophobe? She used to live in filth...I don't get it!

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So mom's in an Adult Foster Home now with 4 other ladies and she refuses to go use the bathroom (because the other ladies don't wash their hands)...so there are germs on the faucets. She won't eat the food that's served because 'someone touched the pan/pot' that it was prepared in. She doesn't like it when someone touches her coffee cup. Instead she pees in the bed, on the floor, in a cup in her room...wherever! She tries to brush her teeth in her room but missed the wastebasket twice so it went in the floor!

Her apartment took my son and I over a week to clean because everything was so filthy - every surface was dirty (door jambs/knobs, handles, etc.) The beginning of it was just to remove the food and greasy pans from the kitchen and stove area. The fridge had food spilled in the bottom and all of the side compartments were nasty.

She'd saved every paper document that had ever come in - piles and stacks in plastic bags; drawers with food in them in various stages of being consumed...closed but half empty bags of chips, crackers. etc. The carpet is disgusting - stuff had been tracked and spilled, etc. and it's just black with dirt. She had peed on a rug in her bedroom and had multiple pads stacked up against the nightstand - the place smelled horrible as you can imagine. It was more important to her to feed the birds (and track the seeds in every day, than it was to clean anything up).

Slowly we were able to dispose of all the filthy debris, excess papers and food...but now I'm wondering what in the world is going on in her mind that she can tolerate all of THAT but cannot stand the thoughts of going into a bathroom that is shared by other women - and guess what? It's generally clean looking/smelling. I've been in there - there are no peed pads laying around, and it appears to be cleaned daily - no mess like what I found in my mother's bathroom.

What can I say or do to encourage her to use the bathroom and see that it's not as nasty as her own bathroom in her apartment? When I spoke with her about it she told me that her mother 'taught her all about washing her hands'....I wondered why she didn't remember anything her mother taught her about cleaning the kitchen or the bathroom? Or even the value of bathing?

I don't get it...such fastidiousness - when in reality she puts up with everything around her being filthy. She has a can of Lysol spray in her walker - she can use that to sterilize the handles - don't you think? I'm out of ideas....

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BarbBrooklyn, Mom is not on any psychiatric meds. This germophobia is a long-time thing with her - but it does seem of late it's more important to her to avoid 'contact' with anything that's contaminated by the other residents hands. I am not her DPOA for medical things, only financial things. Church folks are aware of 'some' of the issues. I'm going to have to let them know of the latest developments. She's calling me constantly now for a variety of issues - last night it was to summon us to bring her warm gingerale as she had a stomachache (she didn't mention it was because she'd eaten pizza there - apparently there'd been a delivery so she felt it was ok to eat 3 pieces of pizza too quickly - and it gave her a stomache - this was revealed in her last phone call at 9:30 pm) She'd told me earlier that she'd given away all of her gingerale that'd I'd taken over there previously 'because it was old'...

She called at 5 a.m. this morning to inform me that she needed to take a bath and wanted someone to take her out to breakfast (hence needing a bath - at my house)...she was up in the middle of the night because she thought she was falling out of bed...and apparently the caregiver was summoned and 'yelled' at her...

She has difficulty sleeping anyway - and told me yesterday that she's just 'discovered' that if she sleeps during the day she will be awake at night! This information is suddenly NEWS? I've been telling her that for years - no napping and no coffee later in the day - the caregiver won't give her coffee after breakfast.

She's also told me to bring a variety of things (appropriately, Kleenex, recipes from her apartment - which I'm not taking over there - no place to store stuff like that)...She will get the things she needs; diapers, Kleenex, paper towels, hand sanitizer, etc. not boxes of old recipes. She wants to go back to her old apartment to see what else she wants from there - not going to happen either. She's not in a position to make wise selections/choices from the items that are left there (she has all her clothing, essential items, etc.) Nothing remains except cookware, knick knacks, some furniture.

I will be in touch with the church elders today - I have written to her doctor but I think she needs some kind of visiting nurse and/or psychiatric care or meds to settle her down. Otherwise I'll be needing the psych meds to settle me down!
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So Sue, is mom on psychiatric meds? Are these more delusions? This is a symptom and needs to be reported to her psychiatrist.

Most important, you are no longer poa, correct? Get on the horn to the church folks.
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Thanks for the suggestions - I have to comply with the wishes of the AFC manager - since it's not my home I'm limited. I will ask the manager there about a bedside toilet but she's not going to empty it. She's hoping that my mother will become a bit more independent (like the other ladies in the AFC). She doesn't want her eating/drinking in her room, much less using the toilet there when she's physically able to get herself to the dining room and the bathroom.

It's her psychosis that prevents her from eating with the others in the dining room (everyone has dirty hands and they've touched the food, utensils, etc.) They don't wash their hands when they use the bathroom...whether all of this is true or not I have no idea - but at some point normal people get over the fact that not everyone washes their hands (a disgusting habit, but I've seen it too, in public restrooms)...and keep your own hands clean and hope for the best - not obsess over it and refuse to use the facilities that are available because of it - going in a diaper or on the floor instead! Same with the dining room - it's available, meals are being prepared and served and she refuses to eat it (due to the idea that someone with 'poopy' hands has touched it).

I've contacted the doctor again to ask if he has psychiatric recommendations and/or a nurse that can see her to discuss some of these issues with her.
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Dear Sue,

I know its very hard to see your mom like this. I have to agree with cwillie and she needs to see a doctor. Maybe your mom needs meds or more cognitive behavioural therapy.

Also if she has been hyper sensitive her whole life this new living arrangement can be very hard on her as well.

I'm a bit of a germaphobe as well. New situations are extremely hard for me. I try to control my own environment as much as I can.
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She needs to see a geriatric psychiatrist, OCD sometimes comes with dementia and can be treated, I found a couple ofAgingCare articles about it:

www.agingcare.com/articles/senior-anxiety-hoarding-ocd-144712.htm

www.agingcare.com/articles/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-in-elderly-parents-138686.htm

In the meantime see if she will use a bedside commode.
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