Not sure how receptive FIL would be to in-home unskilled care for a healthy older man?


My father-in-law is 79 and lives alone. We are his only living family. My husband works two jobs, I work full-time, and we share the care needs of our special needs child. We basically have no time in our lives for breathing, much less elder care.

I'm going to sound like a real jerk here... It's not my intent to be heartless. My FIL smells of old urine. Really, really bad. He has a catheter... I think it may leak in his clothing and he doesn't do his laundry for weeks at a time. He's not the type of person who would be receptive to being told he stinks. My own father specifically asked me to let him know if he ever becomes a smelly old man! FIL emits an odor that can be detected from several feet away. He visits me in my place of business and offends customers with his smell. They've mentioned it.

My husband outright refuses to discuss the problem with him, and I feel like I would destroy my relationship with FIL if I brought it up. I have an extremely sensitive nose and weak stomach, and the man, because he is lonely, sits right next to me, sometimes for an hour or more, making my gorge rise. I'm pretty sure I'm gaining extra weight because I spend that time stuffing my face with strong-smelling soda and snacks so that I don't actually puke.

Ok, so you now probably think I'm the biggest jerk in the world. I'm not. I love my FIL. I'm near tears writing this. He has never been anything but kind to me since the day he met me more than 25 years ago. Which is saying a lot, because he pretty much hates the world. He's a classic grumpy old man. But to me, he's a sweetheart.

He is quite healthy for a 79-year-old. His only medical complaints are slightly elevated blood pressure and urinary incontinence due to prostate cancer treatment (the cancer itself is long gone). He's also very hard of hearing even with hearing aids. So IF someone wanted to tell him he smelled, they'd have to practically scream it at him or write it down. Based on his family history of longevity, I expect him to live another 20+ years, and perhaps even live on his own for 10 or more. He's not ready for a nursing home by any stretch. He drives himself around and takes care of himself well, except for the cleanliness issue. My great-grandma had a catheter as long as I knew her. She never smelled, so I'm pretty sure the issue is hygiene-related.

On the loneliness front, we've encouraged him to go to a senior center, he says they're full of boring old people.

My best idea yet is to scrounge up enough money to hire someone to come in and clean for him weekly and do his laundry. But I'm not sure how receptive he would be to someone, a stranger, being in his personal space, handling his underwear. I have an awesome helper that helps me out at home every couple weeks because my own life is overwhelming, but she doesn't speak much English yet, and FIL would definitely not like her (back to the "he hates the world" thing). I can't exactly put out an ad that says "bigoted old man needs WASP maid."

I guess I'm just looking for some advice as to how to deal with this situation that doesn't involve me or my husband doing his laundry and cleaning up after him, and which takes his "special" requirements into account. My husband is a saint, but literally has no time.

How would I even broach the subject of hiring household help for him without insulting him??

Thanks for sticking with me through this long, disjointed post. I really am not the heartless witch I feel like I've made myself out to be. :(



Geez, maybe you should just tell him or write it down and face the issue with him directly. Tell him what your dad told you and you want to.treat him.the same as your own father. So if this wonderful grumpy old man gets mad what is the real harm? And if he didn't smell so bad maybe those boring people at the senior center could get close enough to talk to him. I would tell him.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to vegaslady

He has a catheter.

In that case he probably has a continence care nurse. Or could be linked up with one. Their entire job is to help people not be at greater risk of infection than can be helped, and not to embarrass themselves by being stinkier than necessary.


Also, the laundry - specifically, drying laundry - that has a pungent reek all of its own if it isn't done properly. I walked past a man dressed in cyclist's gear yesterday, and I'm sure he thought nobody would notice or care that he stank to high heaven, but his assumption relied on the premise that he wouldn't ever be stationary and near pedestrians. Oh dear oh dear, it was all I could do not to break into a run to get away quicker.

Would there be any mileage in reviewing *how* he manages the laundry and making sure it isn't sitting festering in damp heaps for days on end?
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Countrymouse

I assume he's not bathing regularly either, so the combined bodily smells aggravate the urine smell?

I think someone needs to tell him, in gentle but firm terms that he needs some assistance with hygiene. Can you get him to a PCP or other doctor who could gently advise him that home care can be ordered for him, and that would an aide to HELP him bathe (not do it for him as that usually produces a negative reaction)?

I suspect he'll resist, and you may eventually have to force the situation, b/c you can't become ill.

If he goes to the ER for any reason, I'm pretty sure he would get bathed whether he wants to or not.

I agree with VegasLady though; his feelings may be hurt, but he's also harming himself. Dirty people are at higher risk for other health issues.

I'm wondering as well if the house needs attention - probably everything smells, so a good cleaning might be in order, if he goes into a hospital and it can be done w/o his objection (or knowledge).

I wish you luck; this is a challenging situation.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to GardenArtist

Why does he still wear a catheter? Does he have a bladder? Maybe it's time for a visit with his urologist. List everything you have said and ask that the doctor get it. He may listen to the doctor. He may need depends. Maybe not inserting the catheter correctly. Your husband is doing a disservice to ur FIL. I think this is a man to man thing. And, I sympathize with you about smells. I too am very sensitive.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to JoAnn29

Dear WorriedMIL,

It is a delicate situation and no one wants to feel embarrassed about personal hygiene. But I have to agree with the others, and maybe have his doctor or a social worker have this conversation. Whether he is receptive or not, it is time to get help. A nurse, an aid or a housekeeper. I'm sure he will be grateful for help even if he doesn't act like it.

It's really hard. My dad was stubborn but in hindsight it is important to take control and get the help even if there is resistance. His own personal well being depends on it.
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Reply to cdnreader

I agree he needs to be told. It is the kindest thing to do. Think of the places he goes where he gets similar reactions. So he gets offended or mad - he is probably facing rejection everywhere he goes anyway. I suspect there may be some dementia at work here.
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Reply to Treeartist

Dear One, What a wonderful person you are and kudos for all you and your family are doing for one another, especially your concern for FIL, too. Not sure where you live, but please see if there is a Visiting Angels or similar group near you. My mother loves her Visiting Angel Sally who is the only one to get her in the shower twice per week. Plus she visits with her, brushes her hair, paints her fingernails, does my mother’s laundry and helps clean the house. A Visiting Angels nurse comes every two weeks to check on meds, etc. Ask for a male Angel, if possible. There are many, many resources including Meals on Wheels. All are God sends. Much love.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to jkrusebaron1

Oh my, I have been in your shoes. I had to tell my dad and he said I was a lying b***h because no one, not even doctors ever said a word about his stinking gag a maggot breathe or the smell of body waste. You will not get that kind of response I'm sure.

I told my dad, of course no one has said a word, it is a very hard position to tell someone they have terrible body odor. I am only telling you because I don't want you to be embarrassed, do you not notice people moving away from you. They do this because your body odor and breath are wretched. I was in tears explaining to him that I'm not trying to hurt you, I truly am trying to help you. I bought him good toothpaste, good toothbrush and good mouthwash he started using it and noticed people would actually talk to him. I bought him a three-in-one body shampoo, body wash thing that had a Calvin Klein perfume smell, that he just loved. It has been a hard battle and I've had to address it multiple times so my heart goes out to you having to be the one that loves him enough to address the very hard issue of personal hygiene. I would recommend lots of vinegar and baking soda in his laundry vinegar kills the enzymes that allow urine to stink you can pour it directly on furniture, carpets, mattresses, clothes, etc. Anything that has a strong odor poor on to saturate, let it dry completely and the smell should be gone. For his body I would recommend going online and looking for a germicidal that can be used until the soaked in odor on his skin has been relieved. Hospitals, nursing homes, good skilled nursing all have something that can be used to get rid of this odor, I'm pretty sure it's a germicidal that you can buy at a safety and medical supply house, maybe even on Amazon but it will definitely help him. Also buy something that he can shake, squirt and rub on his personals every day, they have products that are no rinse.  I would also recommend using briefs if there's leakage, my dad lives with a man that has a catheter and he too has really strong urine odor and he wears briefs the Pull-Ups, this helps keep the furniture dry.

You do not sound like an evil old witch, you sound like you have your head on your shoulders and know what you and your husband are capable of. It is a good thing to know that you cannot care give for this man that you love so much. I would present to him that I love you so much and I know that if you could smell this you would be so embarrassed, so I want to help you deal with this, and give him solutions here's the germicidal, here's the body wash, here's the vinegar buy it by the gallons at a large box store if possible, and I know this dear woman that needs help financially and we would like to be able to help her and in helping her we get the added benefit of helping you. Make it about him and your love and care for him.  Something to that effect.

 Best of luck in this very hard trial, if he resists too much may be time to bring in the big guns: Dr, his care nurse, cuz as another poster commented if he has a catheter somebody monitors that, maybe speak to them to reinforce what you say, seems like a very big challenge but with the right equipment, tools and products not such a big deal, just so you know. Come back and let us know how you solved it.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Isthisrealyreal

Think about asking him to help YOU by allowing this lady to make a few extra dollars a month & that she really is a hard worker - maybe tell him that you wish you could be more hands on to aid him so if he will agree it will lighten your emotional load -

I think if you wrote him a letter to read & give it to him as you leave so he can think about it - then discuss it next time & see how receptive he is - tell him he will be doing you a favour by agreeing to help this person periodically & maybe tell him you will pay for it but 'it's a secret between us' that you are paying so mum's the word - he may enjoy being in on a 'conspiracy'
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Reply to moecam

He has to be told and it’s probably best by his MD or another professional he respects. You and/or your husband should be present so he knows that someone else knows what he was told. Then if he doesn’t make the necessary corrections you can ask him not to come to your office. That the office manager has made this request due to the odor. It’s a similar rule as not cooking fish in the employee lunch room. When doing his laundry, buy a gallon of OdoBan and put it in the bleach cycle. I also sprinkle it directly on the clothes when I add the presoak cycle. Laundry needs to be done as soon as possible if there is urine on it. My laundry cycle takes 90mins on a bad load. But his clothes may permanently smell due to the urine being imbedded in the clothes. Then you will need to buy all new trousers. Good luck!
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Reply to Barb53

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