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At wits end with smelly 82 year old mum! - Carers UK Forum

At wits end with smelly 82 year old mum!

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84 posts
I love my 82 year old mum and try to do the best for her but she is (has always been) very obstinate and general uncooperative. Her 84 year old sister died in March 2011 and she now lives alone in the council OAP bungalow they once shared. She appears quite fit and active and will walk for long distances around the village every day and has taken to going on bus rides to the local town with her 80 year old sister who is less fit but also lives alone in the same village.

My wife and I have the problem of looking after her as she refuses any help from social services.
I say 'problem' in the sense that she is not very hygienic and my wife has taken on the role of unpaid domestic. She washes her clothes and bed linen and cleans and vacuums and even weeds the garden, but a couple of months ago we noticed she has stopped thanking or even acknowledging the work that has been carried out.

We worry that she is not eating a proper meal and have offered to call every day and heat a frozen meal in the microwave, but she often says she is not hungry or has just eaten a sandwich or cake. We would like her to come to our house for a main meal but she has a hygiene problem and smells quite badly. We have tried everything to get her to bath or shower but she is not interested.

Can anyone give advice on how to deal with a parent that refuses to take a bath and keep themselves clean.

I dont have any advice but wanted to welcome you to the forums.

Im sure others will be alone soon.

Tracey x
Hi, welcome aboard Image

This isn't something I have experience with so can't offer much advice, but does she give a reason for not wanting to wash? Also, is this linked in anyway to her bathroom? Does she have a bath that's difficult to use where perhaps a walk in shower might be more to her liking?

Again, I don't have much experience and you may have thought of all this already, just throwing up some ideas.
Hi and thank you for the quick replies.
I am afraid we have offered every solution to help her with keeping clean including converting the bathroom to a wet room, walk in shower, bath lift etc, all have been refused. Her sister had a carer that called every week to wash her with a flannel, but my mother would never agree to that. We think she would be better off in a good care home and possibly feel less lonely, but again she would never agree to that either.
Hello and welcome from me too Image

I'm not sure if I can offer much advice. Maybe others can. I try and advise my elderly mum on a number of matters but at the end of the day she makes her own mind up. I can understand your frustration but folk can be stubborn at times although your advice is good and well intentioned. Unless someone is putting themselves at grave risk, there is nothing that can be done to force someone to act in a certain way. I would imagine you have tried various gentle and subtle approaches already. Sometimes, elderly people will pay more attention to advice / suggestions from someone of their own age, or from their GP, or from a church minister. I have often found GPs very helpful and diplomatic in these situations. But it is hard to see someone neglect themselves and yet seem to dismiss the support that is being offered them. Quite a common scenario in my experience.

Better go now. Have promised mum a fry up for lunch !

All the best,

Hi Tony, Just wanted to say welcome to the Forum. Like the others, I don't have an answer for this. I too struggle with a stubborn / obstinate mother but she does wash fortunately. My mum has carers but will not allow them to help her! As the others have said, it may come better from the GP or her sister?? At the end of the day, unfortunately it is her choice. I suspect this may be her way of having some "control". The eating too is worrying - I doubt if she would go, if anything like my mum, but is there any form of lunchtime club nearby. My mum normally behaves much better for others than for me ....
Hi Tony,
Welcome to the forum, this is a tricky one, my mum was in her late 80s , she found
it used a lot of her energy getting washed, I helped her but it was still quite a
strain on her, her breathing especially. maybe consider this, otherwise keep
buying her new clothes At that age , you are still the child to them, and they
think they know best. old fashioned notions, go gently. Hope things settle for you.
Take care
Hi and thank you all for your support and welcome.
We have taken her to see her doctor on several occasions but he was not able to offer any advice other than you have already mentioned. She has always been a hard working, very caring and a kind considerate lady, always putting others first. She is now obstinate and when tackled on her hygiene, freely admits to being 'a dirty mare'. To see her live her last days this way is very disheartening, although my guess she will be around for at least another decade.
You could try suggesting that she will or is developing skin diseases/rashes due to lack of cleanliness.My Dad would only shower once a month until i told him he had a rash on his buttocks and may need to see the Dr if it doesn`t clear up.He now showers twice a week and more so if he has an `accident`quite willingly.You could also mention that if she smells,people may not want to know her and the bus driver may refuse to carry her.Perhaps having a shower needs to be more pleasurable/fun.I always make a laugh and joke of showering Mum and Dad.Good luck. Image Image
Actually that's worth a try, although we have suggested something along those lines in the past.
I think she is so far gone she no longer cares what people think. Christmas diner at my house was a smelly one, as was Boxing Day and New Years Day.
84 posts