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My dad has been told before that he needs to shower and change his clothes daily, or at least every other day. He always says he will, but then he falls back into his old habits of showering and then putting on the same clothes he's worn for several days. Recently I've become aware that my mom (83 y/o) has not bathed in years. She will "wash at the sink." That's been ok until recently. She has started to smell too. I think she changes her clothes every day but not sure how often she washes. I am 500 miles away and need guidance on how to talk to them about their hygiene. My mom's best friend says she cannot do it, I have to do it.

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Soul, Jennie above mentioned hiring a "bath aide" which is common when it comes to elders who just don't want to bathe for whatever reason. The women are experts at getting one into the bath or shower.

I remember back when my Dad was too shy to have his Caregiver bathe/shower him until she finally put her hands on her hips and said "Mr. Bob, I raised a houseful of boys, there isn't anything I haven't seen".... that got Dad laughing and he was willing to try.... it worked, he started to look forward to having someone scrub his back :)
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I am having the same issues, I appreciate everyone sharing their stories, but I don't see anywhere that posts any type of solution or suggestions. Please do that for us, we would all be very grateful
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I'm so grateful to you all for sharing these stories. It really helps. This week, I started telling my Dad that I won't take him anywhere unless he showers. The doctor visit you've been looking forward to? Shower or I cancel it. Want a haircut? A weekly shower is the price of admission. And .... This is just a week, mind you...it did the trick. Would I actually follow through on refusing to take him to the doc? For a med review, yes. I was ready to. Haircut? Absolutely. A shopping trip? You betcha. I hope this lasts. We have gotten the shower bench, etc. to make the shower feel safer. It's just plain stubbornness that makes him say no shower, a desire to at least be in charge of that. I think that making him in charge of whether or not he gets a trip to the garden store (no shower/no car) is a way to get him the choice making he craves and me the reduced body odor I really need.

Man, I am making notes to my future self! I'm so afraid of turning into him!
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There are many services that are available for a fee from certain corporations for the aging. For those of you who live a long distance away, get a nurses aide to come and wash,dress and feed your love one. See if a friend or neighbor can check to see that they are doing what needs to be done. Also, a survailence camera can be used. Believe me it's not easy. YW
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Have you thought of having "bath ladies" come in to assist with this task? We had this service when hubby was recovering from a hospitalization and too weak to do it unassisted.

There are a number of products available to give a "dry bath", including a shampoo cap. Might your parents be willing to help each other this way? Could the sibling who lives close go in with some dry-wash products and get them started?

Fear of falling, or when dementia is present, fear of water, can be powerful motivators. If you could figure out what the biggest reason for not practicing good hygiene in your parents' case, maybe that would give you some clues for approaching this.

It is good to see that you want to help. Maybe you can do the research (as you are doing here), locate helpful products, encourage your parents over the phone, maybe to local sib could do the in-person stuff.

If they can be convinced to put on clean underwear and clothes each day, and they are not incontient, a once-a-week bath might be enough.

Can you bring in a homemaker service to do the laundry? Maybe they wear their clothes so long to avoid that chore. Just a thought...

Good luck!

PS. We now have a walk-in tub that we think is fabulous.
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I am going thru the EXACT same thing with my mom (87). She stinks so bad people talk about her. In WalMart she can stink up the entire isle and at a family function last month I overheard two men saying "is that me that stinks" and they were smelling their pits...NOPE it's MY mom. If I even bring up getting perfume, taking a bath, or the fact that she has an odor...she gets FURIOUS and says there is something wrong with MY nose cause she would know IF she smelled. It is so bad when she gets out of my car, the odor lingers FOR HOURS on the seats. I am at a loss as well and I am going to tell her doctor at the next physical (unfortunately she washes before her doc visits). Other than that she is so set back in the olden days when you don't waste water so she bathes once/twice a month, washes her hair in the sink once a week before church, and wears her clothes 10 times before she washes them. No kidding, I bought her laundry soap OVER 8 months ago and it is still more than half full (Sept will be 9 months). I have marked things on the calendar to help me tell the doc. Half of 32 loads left in the bottle is NOT ACCEPTABLE !!!! That is about one load per month. She also has incontenance and wears pads so I smell BO mixed with urine. It is horrifying to take her shopping because people stare and quietly comment. I try and try and she just gets angry.
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Ok, so it's been almost a year and still my parents "smell" -- due to not bathing/showering, or showering and then putting the same smelly clothes back on. I've told them both outright (individually) that they have B.O. and MUST shower and change into CLEAN clothes at least every other day. My dad will do this for a while, but then lapses back into his old habit of wearing the same clothes for days at a time. Mom will not, under any circumstances, with or without help, get into the shower. She does change her clothes more frequently, however she is putting clean clothes onto a smelly body. Their close friend cannot (will not?) say anything to them. A sibling who lives close to them has asked their doctor to say something to them, but we don't know if he did. It's really embarrassing as their smell is quite strong and can be detected as soon as they walk into a room. What can we do? Do we just put up with it, knowing that whenever they go out to dinner, church, etc. people are talking about them? We're really at our wits end.
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I did not realize this until my parents did it, but *lots* of people simply give up getting in the bathtub because they are afraid of falling. You may be able to help with that by adding grab bars and a bath bench if they would be willing to use them (which is not always). A really good OT and PT can do a home visit, help select the right products or modifications, and maybe even irmpove physical function with an excercise program. Some people even go so far as to remove their bath tubs and make them into walk in showers.

People with this specific problem don't notice their own odor after a while unfortunately, and they have probably just stopped going out too. Way too many people just limit or stop normal life activities rather than troubleshoot, modify or problem-solve. Depression can be a factor as well as early dementia and medical evaluation would be great if you can arrange it. . Bless you, because very possibly even tougher problems and decisions may lie ahead. And if they would accept a little home health support they may be OK there for at leat a while longer in any event.
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Wow, it must be pretty bad if you can smell it from 500 miles away...just kidding. You are going to have to see if you can get someone near their place to come in and encourage bathing. You can't make them do anything. Even if they could encourage a pta bath with a soapy washcloth would be helpful I'm sure. If the person can get the smelly clothes off of them to do this, they can pop them into the washing machine IMMEDIATELY. I have had trouble with my Mom taking a bath and when I am lucky enough to get her in there, I quickly get the dirty clothes outta there so she can't put them back on. She has asked me where they were and I just tell her they are in the wash.
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When responding, please keep in mind that I am 500 miles away and see them only several times a year. Also, I'm not talking about a little spot on dad's shirt, or mom being a little rumpled .... I'm talking about outright BO! So bad you can hardly stand to be in the same room. They do tend to wear their clothes several days in a row. It's been brought to dad's attention two times before and he was better for a little while, but he soon relapsed.
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My mother-in-law used to do the P.T.A. (pits, tits, ass) way of bathing for years. She'd stand at her kitchen sink and do her thing. Turned out she was afraid of falling in the bathtub is why she never took a shower. So my husband and I took off her shower door and put up a curtain. Then we put in a shower bench that has two legs that go outside the tub, and two that are inside the tub, there was already a shower wand instead of the typical shower head installed. She had a cow that now we were expecting her to take a shower, but I made her practice first, fully clothed to get used to the idea. Now she takes a shower all the time, but still won't wash her hair herself. Oh well....
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