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I do not think my MIL (91) is bathing. She has suspected 'small vessel disease' and exhibits symptoms of dementia. She had her haircut last week and it still has the style and curl they added to it. My son (24) lives with her but is not that aware and he is not there 24/7. My husband who is generally in denial about his mother's condition, says that if she weren't bathing she would smell. I am not sure about that, she is a petite woman and for some reason has never had to use deodorant in her life.
Is it possible that she would not have body odor? It's not like we can ask her if she showers, she can't remember what she did 5 minutes ago.

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Bluebell19,
If not already mentioned, Teepa Snow has lots of videos on YouTube for dementia issues, etc. Inc. how to deal with bathing.
Besr wishes.
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Reply to naia2077
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My mother is now 98. When my father turned 100, four years back, we are aware she showered prior to the big birthday party. And that was it. I was concerned, we'd seen signs of concern in re to dementia ....I contacted a home care agency affiliated with a local hospital system. Nurse came out. We chatted as she observed mom going up and down the stairs, dusting etc. And the nurses suggestion? That we do nothing. My mouth fell open and I couldn't believe it. For how long I asked? She shrugged her shoulders and stated they had seen people go for years....and as I contemplated that and time elapsed, it was like so what else is there to do? If she rejected any in home help (which she did) and wound up in a nursing home, to what end? To destroy the end of her life as they took her either medicated or kicking and screaming for a shower? So we didn't do anything, and there really was no odor to speak of...until in the past months she became incontinent. As the dementia progressed she was still sometimes using the bathroom appropriately, but totally unconcerned about cleanliness. Then she became unable or unwilling to do the steps and the beginning of last month we connected with hospice. Now she is in a hospital bed pretty much 24/7 and the aides are bathing her which helps us but distresses her when they do her personal areas....So no, there may not be an odor....at least not yet....
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Reply to gdaughter
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Check the bathroom or hamper for telltale signs of bathing such as towels, washcloths, tops of containers, change of clothes, etc. Have your son check it out every other day for evidence of bathing without having to ask. Does she usually wash her hair every time or just neck down? There are people who don't perspire like others so she may not smell. Check fingernails or lower legs for dirt or extra dry skin.
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Reply to ToniFromRVA
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bluebell19: Perhaps she requires 24/7 supervision due to the fact that she stopped paying bills, is scared at night and other things.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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Oldsters with dementia do seem to have a problem with showering - maybe they just can't remember to bathe or think they already did. My mom at 88 still takes a daily shower - I doubt she need to wash that often but whatever makes her happy.

When dad went on hospice he got a shower aide. He was not very happy about this at first - lets face it getting old can be really crappy - someone he didn't know was going to see him in the altogether. However, once he got used to it he really came to appreciate his shower aide. I can't remember if the shower aide came only once a week or 2Xs.

Check into getting someone in once or twice a week to get her into the shower - she may be resistant at first but maybe she will get used to the shower aide and put up with it.

Good luck.
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Reply to cweissp
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I have never used deodorant, I don't have problems with body odor or swetting. I mean I do sweat if I exert myself through exercise or on a hot day, but not under my armpits. I think if you suffer from body odor it has to do with either what you are eating (not healthy, and therefor you are not well), stress, or the material your clothing is made of, does not allow your skin to breathe, which traps moisture and creates bacteria.
Also deodorant only clogs up your glands under your armpits, making you sweat more. It is a band aid and does not fix the root cause.

My parents are the same, have never used deodorant, neither have body odor, both are 88 years old and in my care. They never smell. They both bathe 1x/week. They have always eaten a pretty healthy diet, home cooked from scratch never processed foods.

Ofcourse you still have to bathe :)

If you have concerns that she is not bathing, why not give her one weekly or get someone to. Therefor the mystery will be solved.
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Reply to shuffle
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My DD is 34, and she has never had body odour.. weird I know but true. She always took deodorant to school and such because she was watching everyone else use thiers.. LOL
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Reply to pamzimmrrt
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My mom did not have body odor, nor did she sweat.
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Reply to NinjaWarrior3
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When I noticed an odor with my loved one, I offered to help her with a shower. She said she'd take a sponge bath. I let her off the hook that night, but I said, "Tomorrow night you need a shower." I knew she was very modest, and did not want me to help her. But I knew she couldn't do it herself. The next night, I said it was time for her shower, and she came into the bathroom with me. After the first night of being embarrassed, she was no longer hesitant about a shower, and I knew she appreciated my help. Maybe your loved one is very modest, too. But once the ice is broken, she won't mind the help.
Another loved one couldn't shower without help, but she made it clear that she preferred my daughter to help her instead of me. That was fine. She was taking showers!
You'll have my prayers for your situation to get easier.
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Reply to glh7888
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Dear Bluebell,
My mother and I fought like cats & dogs about bathing and even after we found her a wonderful AL place she was very UNhelpful with their staff about bathing. But the last time I visited her (I'm now 6 states away), I was walking her back to her apartment and she whispered to me, tugging on my arm to get close to my ear, that she has "3 inch baths". I took it to understand that she sneaks into her tub when no one is around, and she feels safe because there's just a little water in the tub and I think that's why no one on the staff has noticed a smell. Maybe your MIL is sneaking in sponge baths or other ways around actual baths. I myself have had 5 MIL's and I wouldn't take care of a single one! You get the angel award, in my opinion!
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Reply to BetseyP
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My mother, thankfully, doesn't have body odor even when she sweats. She has Alzheimer's and a few years ago, she went without bathing for 6 months and she did not smell bad. At the time, she was still able to use the toilet and clean herself, so no odor from down there either.

Now that she wears diapers, it's a different story...
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Reply to polarbear
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If your MIL can't remember what she did 5 minutes ago, is taking offense at questions being asked of her, cannot pay bills, is paranoid at night, and the rest of the things you've mentioned, she is definitely showing signs of advanced dementia and is not safe living without 24/7 supervision and care. You not knowing whether she's being showered is a problem in and of itself, and everyone feeling like they have to walk on eggshells around her is another sign of trouble. Dementia is a serious problem for elders and not something the family should feel the need to tiptoe around the subject of. It is what it is; she needs an evaluation by her doctor and the appropriate actions to be undertaken afterward. Otherwise, a crisis situation will happen which will force her placement in a Memory Care or Skilled Nursing environment without her approval. If/when she falls or gets sick & is shipped off to the hospital and then rehab, they can refuse to release her back home without qualified 24/7 caregivers for her at home (which is VERY costly) or else being placed in Memory Care or Skilled Nursing, which is what happened with my father.

That's the stark reality of the 'elders with dementia' situation many are facing right now. Your son living with her is not enough; she needs someone to help her with Activities of Daily Living such as showers and toileting and other things she may be unable to do alone but that everyone is unaware of. "Showtiming" is something many elders are quite good at........keeping up social small talk to the degree that everyone thinks they're fine & dandy when in reality, they're struggling a whole lot more than anyone realizes. To talk to my mother, you'd think she's doing great! In reality, she's suffering from advanced dementia & has no clue what is going on. Left to her own devices, she'd never bathe or eat or function at ALL, never mind having fallen 77x already. But boy howdy, the woman can still make some great small talk to keep you thinking she's fine!

Please have a family meeting and decide how to go about getting your MIL evaluated and how to get DH to see and accept what's happening with his mother. Men are notoriously ostrich's when it comes to believing there may be something 'wrong' with their mom's, for some reason. Sigh.

Wishing you the best of luck finding a solution to this issue.
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Reply to lealonnie1
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bluebell19 Jul 26, 2021
Omg thank you so much for this. I feel as if I'm going insane. I am going to show this to my DH asap, whether it starts an argument or not.
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We are going through the same thing with my mother. She does not shower unless we make her. She does not smell a lot, I can only smell it when I give her a hug, so NO you can't go by if she has really bad BO. Every time we tell her she has to take a shower, she claims she did that morning. We know that is not true because she NEVER remembers how to turn on the shower head. Does she wash her hands after using the toilet? My mom does not, clear indication that she no longer has the ability to asses person hygiene. It's just gone. This is common with people who have dementia.
SO...the lack of body odor just by being somewhat close, is NOT an indicator, you would think so, but I know from this experience that it isn't.
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Reply to Debstarr53
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Does your MIL have the awareness and ability to be giving herself sponge or sink baths? Is it something she would even think of? We do not know how much dementia she has or how her day is spent.

It would be good if she was at least spot washing parts that need to be kept clean for health reasons.

If you think she is not keeping clean enough, you could get her some Bath Wipes to supplement her hygiene routine.
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Reply to RedVanAnnie
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bluebell19 Jul 26, 2021
I do not know the extent of her dementia either. She seems to have procedural memory (making coffee, laundry, microwave etc) but she doesn't know people or her relationship to them anymore. She gets very scared at night sometimes and is obsessed with the neighbors, and she quit paying bills in January and I had to get all of that lined up. She's never asked about the bills or who is paying them.

She has always been a proper lady of that generation and when my husband did ask her last week, she got offended at the question and topic. This is going to be a tough issue I'm afraid. I wish her daughter would help with this more as I'm just not close enough to her emotionally (long story - although behind the scenes I'm doing everything financially for my DH who has POA).

Maybe it's just something I need to let them deal with.
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She would deffiently start having an Odor if she doesn't do something.

She may not be Showering or taking baths due to being afraid she may fall.

You might have your husband install safety bars in the shower and it tub abs have a shower seat for her to sit on.

She may be just giving herself sponge baths where she just cleans herself up at the sink which is totally fine.

You may also ask her if she still feels comfortable taking showers or if she would like an aide/Caregiver to help her.
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Reply to bevthegreat
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RedVanAnnie Jul 26, 2021
I like your suggestion of asking her if she "still feels comfortable/safe taking showrts." Her answer might be a clue.
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If there is no one helping her, you will never know. You could put wifi cameras around to track her whereabouts if you're that concerned but if she doesn't smell, then she is clean. At 91, she doesn't need to shower every day and if she wasn't toileting properly you would definitely smell it. As for her hair, why not suggest helping her do it? Overall, I would be more concerned with her showering while home alone than showering at all.
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Reply to NYCmama
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bluebell19 Jul 26, 2021
Thanks, we do have cameras but not in the bedrooms or bathrooms so who knows. Yes, DH went over there last week and offered to help or sit while she showered and she said she just didn't feel like it. She got offended at the question. She definitely has all of those old world gender stereotypes intact in her brain. DH and SIL are so afraid of upsetting her for some reason, I've told my kids to tell me off or put me somewhere if I stop slipping, and knowing them they will. I'm certainly not close enough to her to help much, we have always had a strained relationship due to me being a working woman and maybe a bit of a feminist in her eyes.
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I am guessing it is possible, i had a girlfriend that never sweated even if she was working out in the heat. we are all made a little differently. i would say the only way to tell is to look around her neck line for signs of dirty skin, but older people don't get that dirty if they are not doing much. but dirt will build up on skin regardless. and only if she would have a slight accident in her pants, would you smell urine. Does she have a home care person come in to help her during the week, if so make sure they give her a bath (sitting on chair) at least 2 times a week. also with them not sweating as much, their hair don't need cleaned as often so even if they go 3 weeks without washing hair, its no big thing (per one of the hairdressers that I see). wishing you luck.
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Reply to wolflover451
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bluebell19 Jul 26, 2021
Thanks, she had a home companion but she sent her away. Thanks for the suggestions, I will pass them on!
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I am now on the third family member with dementia. I learned early on that my Grandmother, Father in Law and now my Mother, could not remember to shower. All though they them insisted they bathed. And with mine, you could definitely smell that they had not.

I purchased purple chalk, and chalked the shower in a couple of places. Then when I came over, if he chalk mark was still there, I knew that that individual had not showered and could gently suggest they might want to.

I also did this with the washing machine when I realized that the bedroom smelled horrible and the same sheets had been on the bed for over 2 months.

Good luck with all this. Keep coming to the site, it really helps to bounce ideas and suggestions off one another.

God Bless
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Reply to MzFrob
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bluebell19 Jul 26, 2021
Thanks for the idea! I think we will try this!
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If you are concern why not set a bathing day. where you all do something special, like her nails or her toes. Or go somewhere. Then remind her to bathe. Don't worry about it/ How often we Bath is more of social construction than a health need. Different people have different needs. I don't bathe every day and haven't for years. I bathe once a week.
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Reply to MsRandall
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bluebell19 Jul 26, 2021
Thanks, it would be wonderful if her daughter would do something like that. I will suggest it.
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If she is washing her bottom areas and arm pits, she may not have much odor. Many seniors have drier skin and some have suggested that they do not need a full bath every day. Same goes for her hair. The only way to probably make sure she bathes is for you to "help" her since she might not even remember to use soap if she steps into a bath or shower.
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bluebell19 Jul 26, 2021
Thanks, I'm not her direct caregiver my DH and SIL are, but I guess I'm more concerned with establishing that this is another level of decline that they need to address. They seem to have their heads in the sand about her condition, giving every excuse 'just getting old', 'covid dementia', etc. My SIL did say when she stopped bathing and taking care of herself, then she would move her in to her house, and I guess if that's the benchmark that will get someone to do something for this poor woman, then I'd like to establish that it has progressed to that point. If that makes any sense.
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Some people do not have body odor and never smell. As long as she is washing up, it may not be necessary for her to bathe every day. If there is a smell of urine, that would be a sign that you need to check for incontinence. If she can't remember what she did 5 minutes ago, you also have to be concerned that she takes her medications properly. Also check other signs that things are being neglected. Has she lost weight? Is she eating properly? Make sure all of her paperwork is in order while she is still able to sign legal papers: powers of attorney for medical and financial affairs, a living will with her medical directives, a will if she has assets, financial institutions have their own POA forms and also be sure her POA is on file with social security and medicare as someone who can speak on her behalf. You may need an attorney if she has assets. Talk to your son to find out if he'd be willing (and able) to do more if she requires more assistance. He's young and starting on his own career. He may not be able to help on a regular basis. Find out if your MIL would want to have in home caregivers come in to help if she needs more help. The other alternative to discuss with your MIL is assisted living.
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bluebell19 Jul 26, 2021
Thanks, she has not lost weight and we are on her for meals and such, have cameras in the house and she is not on daily medication. All POA paperwork was filed in January when she started getting behind on bills. She sent her home care away, and my son will be going back to college next month. DH and SIL have heads in sand and walk on eggshells around her, so will wait on disaster before they do anything. I'm trying to establish that she can't take care of herself so they will listen. It's not going as well as I'd hoped. Maybe it's none of my business.
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Is the bathtub or shower dirty…are their wet wash cloths, wet towels etc? I would think your son could check for that when he's there.
Body odor comes from more than underarms. So I would think eventually she would have a bit of an odor if not bathing. Does she have to wash her hair eventually or does she always have that done at the salon?
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bluebell19 Jul 26, 2021
She didn't go to salon for 2 years during pandemic and I don't know how long she has gone without bathing. My son is going to try to keep an eye on things but he's leaving next month for college. SIL took her to salon and she just got a trim, she always had a 'high and tight' hairstyle and DH thinks she doesn't want to wash it because it isn't what she wanted and she doesn't know how to deal with more hair than she's had most of her life. He's going to take her back to salon this week and get it done right.
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People vary as to their "body chemistry" and the composition of their perspiration. Some reek shortly after even minimal perspiration, while others don't even after a week (especially if inactive). Some racial/ethnic groups are more prone to it than others. Diet also plays a part. I recall reading that people who produce clear or light grayish earwax are less likely to have body odor than those who have brownish earwax.

Having said all this, it seems reasonable to encourage her to bathe at least once a week,
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Reply to jacobsonbob
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My mother and I do not have body odor. I use deoderant but don't really need it and my mother never used any deoderant.She always smells so good. At the hospital the male assistant kept smelling my mother while he was tranporting her and he said she was the best smelling elder he ever smelled. LOL. My cousin said to my niece one day I think my s... does not stink. It is kind of a joke around here now. It it possible to give sponge baths? It seems she needs more care than family can provide. How about a home health aide?
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Reply to earlybird
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Maybe she washes up with a sponge bath instead of bathing or showering.
Some people can go without deodorant or bathing and just don't smell. I don't use deodorant because I've never needed to. I was so sick one time with pneumonia that I didn't bathe or shower for over a week. I didn't smell. I've never had bad breath when I wake up in the morning either. Some people are just like that.
If Your MIL at 91 was neglecting her hygiene and not washing up, you'd know. She wouldn't necessarily have body odor, but she would smell like pee or crap. She would also smell if she was wearing dirty clothes. Does your MIL have a homecare aide going to her house? She should at her age and that person will help her shower and will let you know if she does.
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Reply to BurntCaregiver
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bluebell19 Jul 23, 2021
Thank you! She sent her caregiver home. But she was just a companion. I'm thinking she now needs help with bathing. Hopefully we can find someone, the care employment situation in my area is very dire right now. I would prefer placement, but that is not my decision.
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Put some flushable wipes in her bathroom so she can clean herself in the only area that's really a problem if it goes unwashed. Most older people hate to bathe for whatever reason.
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MargaretMcKen Jul 22, 2021
Please put a little bin for the wipes. They aren't 'flushable'. Yes they will 'disappear' from the pan, but they are a major problem in the sewerage system.
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Gosh--
Don't go looking for trouble! Many elderly people cannot bathe properly and the skin cells aren't sloughed off and there begins a cycle of smell that is almost impossible to get rid of. It gets imbedded in clothing, furniture--everything.

My mom smells to high heaven. She showered 6 weeks ago, for a granddaughter's wedding and I do not think she has showered since. I cleaned her apt a couple weeks ago and there was a rope of cobwebs from the shower head to the shower chair. It would have taken at least a month to create this.

Easy enough to find out if she's showering. Put a dry towel or washcloth in a place in the shower where it would not be able to be missed by the water. Check it daily and if it remains dry, or folded in the way you put it in there--ta-dah! Your answer is pretty clear.

It's entirely possible that she simply doesn't have an odor. Some people don't.

Also, when mom was younger, she'd get her hair done on Saturday, every week and the 'do' lasted for up to 2 weeks.
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Reply to Midkid58
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bluebell19 Jul 23, 2021
But borrowing trouble is my specialty ;) Thanks for the advice we are going to have son do the washcloth thing. I guess at this point without an official diagnosis I am just wondering if this is part of the disease that she may or may not have. She is trying to hide the symptoms with everything she has and is doing a good job of putting her kids in denial about it. Hence the 'borrowing trouble'.
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It’s possible that she could be not showering and not have body odor. My aunt, who was in her 90s and very petite, was not showering regularly and never had body odor (and didn’t use deodorant). But I wouldn’t worry if she’s not showering every day. Nursing homes usually only give showers to residents 2-3 times a week. If she’s not very active, once a week may be enough. Many older people hate showers so you may need to assist with it. I know this because I took care of 3 elderly family members.
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