How can I address hygiene with my mother-in-law?


Mother-In-Law is 97 y.o., in excellent health except for failing short term memory and the onset of dementia. Her needs are few because she is so self sufficient however she never baths. She does take a cat bath or sponge bath but it's proving to be insufficient. There are times when the odor emanating from her is over powering. So much so that her brother, whom we recently visited with her, called the next day to inform us. Some of it is urine because despite not being incontinent she does have a small leakage issue (like when she sneezes). The other odor, as far as I can discern, is a feminine hygiene issue. Being her son-in-law I'm not real comfortable with bringing the subject up and it turns out neither is my wife. So I'm not sure how to address this with her. Looking for some suggestions to get past this situation.

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I just told my Mom she stunk. I would tell the aide she needed a change. Mom would refuse to go and I would bend over and whisper in her ear "you stink". She would go.

Maybe it is time for pull ups. Or if that doesn't work, sanitary pads. I never asked Mom if she wanted a bath, I just told her it was time for one. Again, I would tell her she stinks. A handheld shower head is great for getting to those areas. I agree that what they eat may be a problem but I also read it has something to do with the skin cells as u age. Using deoderant soap helps. I use Loves baby wipes. They are thick and big. You can use these for a quick wash. For some reason with Dementia, one of the first things is not wanting to bathe. They worry about bowel movements but don't want to bathe.
Helpful Answer (14)

62 year old man here. Long story but I had to help my 86 year old mother bathe a few times before I could get home care set up after a surgery. I do not recommend this. I just didn't have a choice at the time.

You should call an in home care service who can have a bath aid visit. It will be $20 per hour or so probably with a 2 to 3 hour minimum.

Her dementia might be a problem. Might take some trickery and fibbing.

And search this sight for a bunch of info on elders and hygiene. Your not the Lone Ranger on this issue by a long shot.
Helpful Answer (13)

Best, one of the first behaviors one hears about related to Alzheimer's/demensia is that the person stops wanting to shower. When the demensia becomes "severe" she will be double incontinent and probably be taking bed baths. So this is a demensia related issue, unless you are saying your mother in law has always not bathed and smelled bad. The suggestions made here are sound. These are shared out of experience, not off the cuff. We have been where you are.... are more. 

When my mom was at that stage, I would start the water running, get her shower chair in place, use a space heater to warm the room, get her towels ready, put soap on the wash cloth and says, "time for a shower momma." Then I was there to help her out and put her robe on.

Your MIL's demensia is far enough along that you are saying she won't remember to use a "poise" type that means someone needs to help her put the pad in her panties, or open it and get it ready and hand it to her to put in her panties. Caregiving quickly gets much more hands on with demensia. Sorry, it is just what happens. One thing not mentioned yet, or at least I didn't see it, is having her checked for a UTI. That can create odor too.

Another thing I did in the early stages was to get a couple of Peri bottles. I would put a mild soap with warm water in one and then one with clear warm water. On mornings mom didn't shower, while she was on the toilet, I would spray her Peri area with the soapy water and then with the clear water. It helped clean her down under a bit.

They make flushable most wipes... Adult disposable wash cloths... No rinse soaps... All can help in these situations. With some demensia patients, it is the running water that they don't like so they do better with a bath. Again, some assistance may be needed.

One thing is for sure when dealing with demensia/Alzheimer's.... This too shall is progressive and this stage will pass and you will have a whole other set of issues and behaviors.
Helpful Answer (13)

My FIL was the same. We got him in home care and they sent 18 yo's, who'd say "time for a shower" and then they'd sit on the couch and he'd go run the shower for minute and come out IN THE SAME CLOTHES and say "OK, take me to the coffee shop".

I witnessed this ONCE and let the poor aide have it. I said "You are here to HELP HIM BATHE , so do your dang job!!" We still had issues, but FIL had bowel incontinence and wow--he got really smelly. I'd just gave up trying to be discreet and nice, since I was also the one scrubbing his fouled clothes and underwear (when I could find it, he'd hide it around the house!)

Never a really "clean" type man, he didn't like to shower, it was hard for him, but he had to have his behind cleaned every single day, whether he liked it or not. Sometimes I'd threaten to strip him down and scrub him myself (while hubby cowered on the couch)...that alone would terrify him into washing. (sigh)

As wonderful as it would be to be kind and gentle, sometimes the whispered "you stink" makes the difference. You wouldn't let a baby sit in a soiled diaper, why would you let an 80 yo? Some people can be cajoled and babied along, some require tough love and tough talk.

Best thing for us was dad's frequent hospital stays. The nurses made him shower everyday, no questions.
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There is a difference between caring for someone in need of total support with all ADLs and the level of caregiving you are at Best, I was where you are now about 7 years ago and the learning curve seemed very steep. My comment about addressing odour as silly is measured against my need to physically bath, toilet, change diapers, and more for my mother. I've been peed on and pooped on, so yes, the issue of odour seems trivial now.
My mom also relied on sponge baths, when she finally allowed herself to be showered by someone she commented that she "tingled all over", and that was a good thing! Until I began to look I did not know there are so many helpful incontinence supplies, waterproof bed and chair pads etc. There comes a time when the caregiver child has to step in and take the leading roll in the relationship that was once dominated by the parent, even though it is uncomfortable and feels disrespectful and unnatural.
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I know by law aides/nurses have to say "would u like to take a bath". This didn't work with my Mom. You said "time to get a bath". If you "Ask" it would be "no" or "later". I would tell her she needed to do it when tha aide had time. Actually, I told the aides to tell her "your daughter said....". It worked.
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Thanks to all for the multiple replies. One by one here are my responses: "(Use) in home care service(s)" we've considered this and it may be the best option. "Dementia might be a problem" she is very easy going for the most part and her dementia is not severe at this time. "Odors come from the skin because of things that Mother-in-law is eating" I'm confident it is feminine hygiene just can't or don't want to explain why here in this forum. "Buy some prepackage cleaning cloths" trouble is she forgets, short term memory is very very bad. "Morphing into her full time caregiver that little concern (telling her she stinks) seems silly" we've been her 24/7 caregivers for three years now and neither of us can work up the gumption to say this to her. "(Set up the) bathroom with a bath chair, hand held shower and grab bars" did this long ago but she won't use it. "(There are) pads she can use" again she probably won't remember them. Thanks again. I will search the site for more information and will post when we reach a resolve.
Helpful Answer (8)

Dear BestMotherInLaw:

I am exactly where you are now. I am the daughter in law of a bright elegant 96 year old with short term memory issues. She used to take daily baths on her own and get dressed in a nice outfit everyday. Now she only gets dressed when there is somewhere to go and needs to be reminded to bathe. In addition, she has become incapable of wiping herself well after using the bathroom. If she has an accident, she tries to wash out her clothes in our sink and does a poor job.

Since we all use the same bathrooms, this is not acceptable.

We do set up the bath at least once a week and tell her it is a good time to do so now.

We also have taken away her panties and replaced them with disposable pull-ups, the nice ones that fit like underwear. We have those and some wipes in a basket by the toilet, along with a smaller covered trash can. The basket and the trash can are "labeled" with instructions such as "underwear and wipes." I have a brief instruction sheet in the basket to change underwear daily and when necessary.

Whenever she takes a bath, we grab all of the used clothing and do a laundry load. We also have a cover over the sofa wher she sits. This is washed on a regular basis. I also have jars of odor absorbing gel in her room and sitting area.

Occasionally, she does state that she is offended that we think she is "dirty ". We tell her that she is getting forgetful about baths and that we are helping her to remain elegant and pleasant to be around. We also tell her that it is necessary to be clean when living with others. This conversation takes place 1-3 times a month.

The other writers are correct. This lack of awareness of her own hygiene is due to memory (dementia) issues and aging. She does not remember and she does not smell herself. She cannot fully take care of herself.

If we get to the point of too much care and no cooperation, we are considering more in home help or assisted living.

I hope that this is helpful. It sounds like you truly want to be respectful of your MIL.
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Stop the crap about kids need to care for their parents. I'm so sick of that. First of all can't you people read?? he's a son-in-law and I imagine one in his 60's or 70's himself based on she's 97. She's a female mother-in-law, does that not switch your advices appropriately?? It should. No son, let alone a son-in-law should EVER "have to, nor should Ever be made to feel guilty into "maintaining the hygiene of a mother-in-law, my god. 

Stop telling people, who ever it may be, that they should feel responsibility of anyone regarding aging individuals, if the feeling is there, then they already own that to the degree they do, so let them work out their own situations regarding "feelings!!!!!!! 
Good God the man (if in fact the poster is in fact a man) .. a man should never have to clean the a**, breasts, nor vaginal areas of a female. (Unless it's his wife or child) and even then, out-side help would be easily found to do such a task of thorough bathing. (one thorough shower per week is sufficient for a 97 year old. Any more will dry the skin causing chances of skin issues that include itching and skin tears and abrasions to be more frequent.) 

Unbelievable .... someone Telling this guy to put a glove on and make sure poop isn't dangling?????? Then you have someone Telling him to spray a sh** ton of air freshener???( good way to throw a 97 year old into a respitory attack) .... I swear to god I think some who respond are not of their full-facilities, actually based on some of the comments psychological assessment red flags are popping up all over the d*mn place. 
 This is 2017 not 1900... this man has resources that he can draw assistance from within his community, and if her insurance is governmental or private both will have bath aids integrated within assistance. She's 97 years old for so stop telling him to start talking with her, and start telling him to bring someone in once a week and get it done. It's not time for a hygienic intervention to reteach a 97 year old what's acceptable social hygiene. (I'm cracking up out of pure disbelief and blown away what many of you've written...) 

You folks need to direct him in the way that will both alleviate his concern and minimize the event all together.... , but for god sakes knock the guilt crap off """ yes I said 'crap Off" and stop the weirdness many of you seem to love to publicize  ..... (some of you have clearly lost it... wow. "One flew over the coo coos nest, and "mommy dearest are flashing through my mind reading these from some of you.) 
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Again thanks for the many replies but a special "tip of the hat" to Tired1of4. Thank you for saying some of the things I was thinking! Yes I am a 66 y.o. man and yes I am not comfortable with having this conversation with M-I-L. I thought my wife would be okay with it but she's as uncomfortable as I am. Nothing wrong with that and after the many insightful postings we've started looking for a professional to come here and bath her. We already are her 24/7/365 caregivers and bathing her is one task neither of us is comfortable with nor desire to do it. For us It is the best solution at this time and if insurance won't cover it we will gladly pay for this service. Thank you everyone for your input.
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