How do you talk to Dad (82) about soiling accidents and cleaning himself after one happens?

Asked by

I have been caring for my father for the last 20 years since my Mom passed away. He is 82 now. Recently he's been having "accidents" in his pants. He changes his clothes but doesn't clean himself very well and leaves the toilet seat a mess. He doesn't say anything, just leaves the clothes near the washer. Since I'm his daughter I find it hard to talk to him about things that are so personal and probably embarrassing. Looking for some advice.

Answers 1 to 10 of 46
Top Answer
I cared for my dad as well and we also had to have some uncomfortable conversations over the years.

Now that your dad is 82 it sounds like the caregiving is changing and you're facing some situations you haven't faced in the past. The best way to deal with them is head on and as they come up.

Talk with your dad and tell him what you need from him. Be compassionate. You could say something like:

"Dad, I've noticed recently that you've been having accidents in the bathroom and it's OK, it's a normal part of aging. My concern is that you're able to clean yourself up after an accident so I've put some Depends and wipes and wash cloths in your bathroom to help you get cleaned up. I've also put a small hamper outside your bathroom in case you need it so you can throw your wash cloths in there when you're done. I've also put some paper towels and Windex under your sink so you can clean up the toilet seat. I wouldn't want you to have to sit on the commode when it's dirty."

Be matter of fact, diplomatic, and do what you can so he can hang onto some dignity. As difficult it is for you to discuss this with him I'm sure it's more difficult for him to have to discuss it with you.

I'm sure you'll be very kind when discussing this with your dad. You acknowledge the embarrassing nature of this discussion which tells me that you're a caring person and that you are concerned about your dad's feelings.
Great answer from Eyerishlass. One additional thought, is there a reason for the incontinence? You might look at his eating patterns or if he has his own food supply whether or not it is fresh/refrigerated. Also, you might give him some active yogurts to help restore his intestine lining.
I am going through this with my Mom right now! She says she doesn't know she is doing it. I said "Mom, do you not know you are messing yourself?" She looked at me and said "I don't know nothing"........However, my husband and I have noticed her setting up on the edge of her chair, really straight, and it's at that time she is doing her business in her depends. Because, shortly thereafter, the stench becomes known throughout the house. I used to have a strong stomach but with each new "gift" she gives me, I am becoming more "sick to my stomach". This is a 2 to 3 time a day thing and just started this past weekend. She has been incontinent for the past month and a half or so. Her food has not changed. She still eats her same menu as always. If it doesn't let up after the yogurts and probotics, guess the only solution is to head for the doctor's office. Any suggestions would be helpful. So sorry this is going on with your Dad. It makes it worse when it's your Dad. Been there and done that, too. Stay strong!
Thank you to all who have answered my question and given advice. My brother and I were able to talk to my Dad tonight. He said that it happens when he farts and he doesn't know when its going to happen. He agreed that wearing a disposable under garment would help especially when we go out. We shall see if he keeps up his end of the bargain by telling one of us when it happens so we can help him clean up. Thanks again for the support! So glad I found this forum
The key is communication and letting them know you are there to help them. My 80 yr old MIL tries to clean herself after she poops while in the bathroom and ends up with a bigger mess than if we help her, so we have gotten her to agree to keep her hands out of it and let one of us assist. She too goes in her depends from time to time and she too claims she does not know when she is going. We too find it hard to believe because she must feel the mushiness and the stench, but she swears she doesn't know. Same thing with urine incontinence, she claims she doesn't know. Either way, Depends are a part of her life now and have been for a long time.
Clagraffe, I have found that the Walmart brand Assurance is more absorbent and holds more, like during the night, than the Depends and is a bit cheaper, too. We are going through twice as many in the past couple weeks as before. I have been questioning Mom as to "not knowing" and I get a dozen different answers, or maybe no answer at all. She has this look she gives me. At first a friend suggested maybe she is mad at me or pouting because I am outside or doing something else, and I thought that, too. Now, I don't think so. BUT, when she goes and she is in her chair, she will set straight up and we always know she is doing it, then she sets back and looks all innocent again. I'm like you, how do you not keep from smelling that nasty smell, even the urine smell, and the mushiness. Please keep me posted on how she is doing and any new things that you come up with to help beat this mess. I am putting sheets in the washer as I'm taking out the load I just get washed from the dryer. Really gets tiresome, especially when I know she did it and she says she doesn't know. My best to you!
Chloesgrams - Is it possible your mom doesn't smell it? My mom has ALZ and lost her sense of smell years before the other symptoms showed up. I read recently that sense of smell is one of the earliest warning signs of ALZ because that area of the brain is one of the first affected. Doesn't explaint the "squishy-ness" you'd feel but just a thought.
Yep. Grandma (95 years old) has this issue too. She said she doesn't even realize she goes. We keep her very stocked with pads- she hates depends as they are difficult for her. Thank god for Amazon Subscribe and Save! She likes Prevail. We got her a diaper genie and she has another trash can as well. I empty the trash a couple times a week and everytime I do, I wipe down the floor/toilet or whatever else. She is fairly good at bathing especially since we moved and she has better accomodations.
I have IBS so I found it easier talking to her about her bowels because I can sympathize with the whole running to the bathroom thing. We can relate in that way. I always tell her I understand how frustrating it is but I can't do much about it.
I've noticed that people with dementia seems to be able to get used to almost anything.
So, I wonder if they really do have awareness that they're about to pee or poop, have extreme body odor from not bathing, are spilling food all over themselves, etc... but, they're just 'ok with it'. Particularly men, who may have had many of their personal habits and preferences accommodated all their adult lives.
The squishy, smelly depends, the shirt that hasn't been changed in a week, the food stains all over the just doesn't bother them. But, it does bother those around them.
Dementia in so many ways makes the elderly very toddler-like, so, I wonder if nagging should be employed in the same way as one might with a 2 or 3 year-old.
Obviously, in the later stages of dementia, consciousness of all of those things starts to wane. But, I'm talking about someone who's still communicative and can respond to instructions if they're reinforced repeatedly.
I've tried it with my dad with some success on other issues. I don't nag in the same authoritative tone I would have with my kids when they were young, but I do address the same topic over and over until he starts to change an objectionable behavior. Like it was with my kids, it's sometimes a 'last man standing' situation : )
I also think that just old age and refocusing on what are priorities during the physical and mental decline are a factor in not being bothered by things that would upset them years earlier.

Expanding on Isn'tEasy's theories...

I've written this before and really believe it's a factor - older folks' priorities change, and so do their sensitivities.

Maslow's heirarchy of needs is no longer multi-dimensional for them. Their focii drop down to the basic few needs and other concerns drop away.

If you think about it, they're in the last stages of their lives, have limited mobility, become dependent on others, and sometimes every day is a struggle. When you're in survival mode, a lot of things aren't important as they were when people were fully functioning.

I sometimes liken it to early humans whose focii were on food, shelter and survival. Higher level thinking processes weren't that necessary except to support the bsaics. Once their got their saber toothed tigers or mastadons, they ate, slept and then went hunting again. They all probably had horrendous body odors but I doubt if it was that important to them.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support