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My mother in law moved in with us just before we got married 10/30/2020. Since moving in, I have noticed she smells, BAD. I have tried to be nice about showering, but so far she just tells me she already took one or she will "later". My husband has also mentioned it to her, but she tells him the same.
I have noticed that she has major issues with toilet time as well.
She seems to "miss" when she goes to the bathroom. By this I mean there is constantly a smell in the shared bathroom. There is urine on the floor and wall, along with fecal matter at times. I have tried to make the bathroom not smell for the 4 adults that live here (my mother also lives with us) but even cleaning the floor and wall by the toilet every day the smell is very strong. (read that as the bathroom smells like an outhouse or port-a-potty in the summer). I have checked around the toilet for dried body fluids and can find none.
I have also noticed that she seems to have an issue with wiping, meaning there are visible stains on her legs from urine.
She tries to use air freshers to cover the smell but lately, it doesn't even help. The smell in the last 4 days alone is enough to make me gag.
I also have the suspicion that she does not really "wash" in the shower but instead just washes her hair. (her hair is also very long, maybe midback, and she refuses to care for it or cut it) I don't actually know if she even does that. I have noticed when I clean the shower, there is a build-up of her shampoo on the side of the tub, which leads me to believe that when she showers shampoo is dropped, or she is just squirting it out on the floor. She also does not use soap or a washcloth.
I am at my wit's ends. I don't know what to do. I have tried talking but it does nothing. I have tried offering to clean, and she flat out tells me no. I have suggested that showers might make her feel better, but she says nothing to that. I have asked her if she needs help in the shower and she does not answer.
Her son, said to me "I shouldn't have to tell her several times a week she needs a shower" and my only response was, no you shouldn't. She should do this on her own.


Note to add
she has gone over 14 days without a shower before.

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I am an RN w/36 years experience with gerontology- special in home health and hospice
1. sounds like underlying dementia And possibly a urine / skin infection if possible get her seen by MD
ask for a home health referral- physical therapy for muscle weakness, generalized deconditioning. She may not qualify, but the assessment is free. They can truly tell you if there is a possible qualifying condition.
2. She definitely needs someone to assist with bathing- is there any other family or friends that may be able to help?
3. I recommend a shower chair with a back for safety. Many times they don’t bathe due to fear of falling or getting sick.
4. install a hand- held shower head in addition to the shower. They’re low cost and easy to install
5. Install hand rails. Not the suction cup type, the ones that secure with screws.
6. Place non- slip surface on the bottom of the tub. Low cost, easy to install.
as for the commode- are you open to considering a bedside commode for her? It might take care of the shared commode issue.
7. if possible get some time alone for you and hubby. A picnic, movie, or just coffee away from the house to reconnect sounds like it’s needed.
god bless you. This is difficult to say the least.
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Mammajae Feb 2021
I like suggestion #1. Calling for an assessment. Good idea!
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Personal hygiene is such an intrinsic part of modern society that it’s difficult to notice how incredibly complicated bathing is. Dozens of steps need to be accomplished in sequence. Add limited strength and range of motion, fear of falling from balance problems, and the sheer discomfort of being cold and wet. When you break it down, bathing can be mentally and physically overwhelming.

Yes, your loved one is being stubborn in refusing to bathe. But no amount of chiding, negotiating or threatening can address the core issue: she may no longer capable of bathing independently. The same applies to toileting.

At this point she needs supervision, cuing and physical assistance. That means a family member or professional aide should be there to help every time. If the root cause is cognitive decline, she’s never going to improve.

That’s the difficult reality. It sounds Ike you’re so stressed dealing with the consequences of her constant hygiene issues that you don’t have time to consider the root problems. I absolutely understand that the immediate mess has to be dealt with now, but when you have time to take a breath, consider if this situation is sustainable and how you’ll cope as it gets worse. She needs help and you need help.
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Your mother-in law-has significant issues with self-care, and doesn't seem to recognize that it's become a problem. She also appears to have become incontinent - maybe not all the time, but enough for it to be a problem. If she cannot wipe herself adequately, have you tried to investigate any physical reasons she can't do it? Perhaps she has the beginning stages of dementia, and if she does, nothing will change that.
Do you have a shower bench that she can use? Have you tried getting some lovely bath products "just for her" as an enticement? Perhaps hiring an aide 2x a week for two hours to assist her with showering (taking the family out of it) will help. I would definitely make an appointment with an elder-care doctor, and then work diligently to get her into the shower before the appointment. Not wanting to be unkind but have you tried insisting that she bath while she lives in your house?
If the problem is as bad as what you say, there are definitely some mental issues that should be investigated. The conditions in your bathroom are not sanitary nor safe and should be rectified. Not being able to handle the "activities of daily living" is cause for concern, and perhaps investigating a memory care living arrangement in the long run is best.
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Frances73 Feb 2021
My mother refused to let me help her bathe but had no problem with having an aide come in and help.
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So, why do you have your mother AND your MIL living in your home when you're a newlywed? That really seems like a bad decision, especially now that your MIL has extreme hygiene & toileting issues that you were apparently unaware of before inviting her to live with you. Does she suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's? Because such cognitive issues quite often cause many sufferers to refuse to bathe.

Personally, I'd issue the woman an ultimatum: If you want to continue living in this house, you MUST follow these rules: present a list of rules to her. Have a checklist also, and if/when the rules aren't followed 3x, she will need to find alternate living arrangements. Otherwise, your brand new marriage is going to be stressed to the gills and that's a bad thing. House rules need to prevail because structure prevents chaos. Include cleaning the bathroom after EACH use on that checklist, b/c it should not be YOUR job to clean up her feces and urine from the floor & the wall. That is unacceptable!

Wishing you the best of luck setting up lots of house rules FAST!
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hdh0203 Feb 2021
My mother has lived with us for years. No issues at all. She's able to do most things around the home, just needs help managing expenses and time.
My mother in law lost her housing due to budget cuts and our government not caring that she had no place to go. Plus my husband promised her that he would never put her in a home and due to covid and her health issue I agreed that this would be better than a home.
I was aware that she had bathroom issues, incontinence but nothing like this as when I visited her at her apartment, nothing like this was ever-present.
She has many health issues such as having strokes in the past but no diagnosed dementia or Alzheimers.
I am afraid that if I do give her an ultimatum it will create issues with my husband. Also I don't know where she would even find alternate living arrangements not to mention paying for it.
She doesn't even notice when there are fluids on the floor or wall, and does not clean well, but I believe this is due to her CPOD as she tires quickly.
I should also mention that any mention of smells or things needing to be cleaned that are hers, has lead to tears in the past.

I am going to lay down house rules.
Does any one have a chart or list I can borrow or use to plan?
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Why on earth did you consent to her living with you as newlyweds? She is NOT your responsibility.

Time to issue an ultimatum - either she takes care of her personal hygiene - or show her the door.

I am 68 with many health issues. But I take care of myself, clean my house, run errands, take care of my pets, do online banking, cook, etc. There is no excuse for a 68-year-old woman to be acting like she does - unless she has dementia. If she has dementia, things will only get worse and you cannot have her living with you any longer.
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caroli1 Feb 2021
It's the mother-in-law who has the issues. The mother is 67 and does not have many issues. The O.P. did not give the mother-in-law's age.
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Let me ask again. How old is she?

Have you contacted Council on Aging? Is your MIL middle aged or a senior?

Council on Aging will do an assessment and if she qualifies she will have someone to help her bathe, clean her room, prepare light meals, etc.

She may not want you to help her because she is embarrassed. She may receive help from someone else.

Call them. There is usually a waiting list. They may have different rules now due to Covid.

I would call and see if help is available.
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hdh0203 Feb 2021
Shes 68.
I have not.
I will look into that, I had no idea we could even try that. Thanks.
I don't think she will let someone come in to shower her but I can at least tell her if she qualifies.
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You need help. She isn’t cooperative. You are headed for a disaster. Set some ground rules or you will end up completely miserable.

Of course, I empathize with someone who is having financial difficulties.

I also empathize with caregivers. I was a caregiver to my mom too.

My mom has Parkinson’s disease. She struggles horribly with mobility issues but she bathed regularly.

She had accidents but she wore Poise pads during the day and diapers at night. So I never had a messy bathroom to clean up.

I immediately threw any soiled clothes or sheets into the wash so I never dealt with smells.

It’s exhausting being a caregiver, 24/7 365. I feel for you.

You are going to have a discussion with her. She is young! She could live 20 or more years.

There are senior apartments that are rented according to income. Is she collecting social security? Disability benefits? Was your father in law a vet? Can she collect vet benefits?

Contact a social worker to see what help is available. Where do you live? Are you in the United States?
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I understand your frustration. I am going through something similar with my mother. However my mom is in an assisted living facility. But, I have not hired someone to groom her, and I have been designated as her personal assistant to take care of these things.

My cousin, the daughter of my mom's sister, is in a very similar situation and we compare notes.

She told me it is very common for older folks with cognitive decline to not want to change clothes, or take showers.

They get cold, it takes effort, they forget, they don't realize it needs to be done, they resent being told, and it's just uncomfortable. Taking a shower makes them cold.

So, we "help" with bathing once or twice a week. And if she wears the same clothes more than 1 day in a row, so be it. Sometimes the only time the clothes get changed is on shower day.

I am further vexed because my mom doesn't seem to want to have her laundry done. She prefers to wash her clothes, especially her underwear in the sink. She is afraid her clothes won't come back. So, we are putting her room number in all her clothes, hoping that will help. She already has more clothes than God has sinners, so losing some would be a good thing actually. Except for the underwear. I even bought her new underwear, and she won't even wear them. She prefers to wash out her old disgusting underwear instead. I am slowly throwing those out when she's not watching.

It is very perplexing and frustrating.
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Frances73 Feb 2021
Oh wow, just like my Mom! When we moved her to AL she insisted on keeping ALL of her clothes, even things she hadn’t worn in decades. But she seemed to wear the same few thing every time I visited. I guess they were easy to get into and comfortable. And she wore her undies until they were rags, but none of the new ones I bought her fit the way she,wanted.
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I’ve just discovered Stryker bath washcloths that you can microwave for one minute to get nice and warm, and use them for a sponge bath. They do not drip, they have soap and moisturizer, and there are eight washcloths per package, so that entire body can be done. They are disposed in the trash. I tried them once with my mom and we were successful. The same company sells a shower cap that you rub it on the head and then when you remove it the hair is clean and just needs to be combed. I haven’t tried that one yet but I’m planning to.
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jcnickc Feb 2021
I second that about these wash cloths. My late husband was nearly paralyzed with ALS and these were wonderful to get him fresh and clean and protect his skin. Now I use them between showers for my mother. They are soft and warm after microwaving—very comforting to my LOs.
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On a related note: there are fungal infections that can cause horrific body odor.

Sometimes an elder doesn’t notice their own smell or can’t identify the source of their discomfort.

It’s worth a quick check to rule out. Look for an angry rash, especially in folds and moist places. Unclothed, the source of fungal reek is impossible to miss.
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