Incontinence pads - is terrible odor normal?

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I moved in with my mother temporarily while I'm looking for work - before this I was a long distance caregiver. She has incontinence and wears the pads and pullups. She was putting the used ones in an open garbage can in the bathroom that was only emptied twice a week and the smell was horrible! I got her to agree to one of those air tight garbage cans, so at least the smell is contained unless you open the can. It's a struggle as she is embarrassed by the whole topic and does not smell it at all. She also only takes "spit baths" and has only taken one real shower in three months - she refuses to listen to me about anything.

So my question for you folks is given that this is urinary incontinence only is it normal that the smell from these pads should be devastatingly bad - like enough to make me nauseous? How do I deal with this?

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Get a diaper pail. Don't refer to it as "diaper" anything. It is simply a bathroom waste basket. Make sure you get one without an obvious diaper label. While you are at it, you might get an attractive waste basket for next to the sofa or her recliner. You are just sprucing up the house a little. Nothing to get insulted over.
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We kind of touched on the smells and cleaning on another post. I reported that I'm ok with poop and stuff, but have a hard time with blood or vomit. It was easier for me to begin cleaning MIL than it was for her to accept the help. It was touch and go for a while. I had to just put my feelings on the back burner, though, with FIL. That was much harder for me, although his personality was much more accepting of his disabilities. I have family who are nurses, I couldn't do it either. Whatever they make, they are underpaid IMO.

I think if you put a little Vick's Vaporub or Mentholatum on your upper lip, it may help with smells. I will say that I haven't tried it, but that's what I've had suggested to me in the past.
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To be honest, you have to harden your emotions to it. It's unpleasant, to say the least, but after a while, you just steel yourself and deal with it. It's unavoidable in an elder with incontinence problems - there is going to be a certain amount of odor, just nothing you can do about it. All you can do is minimize it as much as possible - but it will never go away completely.
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Thank you all so much for your answers! I am still very new to dealing with the actual day-to-day issues and I'm afraid its kicking my ****. I'm ashamed to say I look forward to getting a job and getting out of here very much - I will still be in the area and be quite involved but the hands on stuff has to be someone else. She and I have a pretty painful relationship.

Pam - I think you may have hit the nail on the head about the medications. She is on many of them and has had problems with recurring UTI over the last couple years. Fishy might describe it somewhat. I have begged her to keep cleaner, but the most she will do is rinse with water. She says soap "burns" her lady parts. Even Johnson's baby wash. She refuses to tell her doctors about this stuff on her own but I am going with her now so may make some headway.

Susan.....thanks for your ideas about the hygeine. Yes, it is dreadful and something must be done. Just how and what without me getting kicked out on the street is a hard thing. My mother is still very willful and legally competent so there's only so much I can make happen.

Txcamper, Diaper Genie would help if I can find a way to introduce the idea that she doesn't take as a deep insult. It would keep things sealed up way better.

This gets beyond the practical but how do you all deal with the emotional aspects of this? Smelling unpleasant smells from personal areas of other people is something I'm not sure how to deal with. Some nurse I'd make!
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Oh by the way, if she's just taking spit baths (yeah, my MIL takes those too on non-shower days), then she's probably not cleaning well in the folds of the skin. All kinds of odors lurk in folds of the skin. Also between the toes.
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You might also try a Diaper Genie to dispose of the pads and pullups. Check Babies R Us or I think I've seen them at Target.

I have multiple sources of air fresheners (no open flame candles though) in each bathroom to help keep the odors down.
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Horrible urine odors are a result of medications, disease or sometimes just eating asparagus. So is it always the same bad smell? Skin fungus smells like dirty socks. Bacteria-- fishy smell. Ammonia- concentrated urine.
If the smell is more weird chemical, it's probably her meds.
If it is a poopy smell--she is losing bowel control.
If you smell rotting garbage---there is rotting flesh and you need to get her stripped down for inspection NOW to identify the cause.
If the garbage is not carried out DAILY, then yes, there will be horrible smells even from normal urine.
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The problem here is one of hygiene. My mother also uses incontinence pads, and despite the fact that I empty the bathroom trash every single day, it still smells a bit in the bathroom. There's no way around that. And yes, my mom smells of urine at times, but we try to keep it to a minimum by having her shower every other day. I'd like her to shower every day, but she won't, so I take what I can get.

You need to first and foremost get mom to shower. Aging people do not smell the same odors we do. Their sense of smell becomes duller and they don't notice the odor of urine or body odor. First try to convince her yourself....ask her if you can give her a warm shower to relax her muscles and buy a pretty-smelling shower gel or soap that she would like. Tell her you'll shampoo her hair for her and maybe you can sweeten the pot a bit and try to have a home beautician come in and cut/style her hair for her. (Check with your local agency on aging for a list of in-home beauticians.)

If mom still won't shower, it may be time for an ultimatum - tell her that she needs to let you help her get in the shower and get washed up (or do it herself), or you will need to call in a home health care agency and have them help her, because not showering is not healthy for her. Let her know that you are only trying to look out for her health.

Regarding the smell from the incontinence pads, the covered trash can will help, but make sure it's emptied every day, or more than once a day if necessary.
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