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Elderly parents

Dealing with unpleasant smells

12 replies

SecretSoul · 04/09/2023 05:52

Hi all,

I could really use some advice about my DM.

I'm about to move into a joint house with her, but with separate parts of the same house so it's sort of like a house with an annexe arrangement. I will provide whatever care she needs.

The problem is that DM smells really bad. I'm going to have to be blunt here so apologies, but it's an intimate, sweaty smell. Almost like a yeasty type smell that's emanating from her groin region.

It's so strong that it's noticeable even in my part of the house, on the other side of the connecting door.

DH thinks it's urine, but I don't think so. I think it's partly urine, but also partly unwashed, sweaty groin.

For context, I'm autistic and have always really struggled with strong smells. This odour is absolutely awful.

DM barely moves out of the chair all day (she has a lifelong disability). She's more or less housebound. Other than going to the toilet, she will happily sit in the same chair all day long without getting up. The chair she sits in smells but it's in the air, as well as on her.

She only showers twice a week. She changes her skirt every few days. She will not be persuaded to increase the frequency of either of these.

I know she's had some problems with incontinence as she asked me to get her some pads. But she used a couple and then stopped as she couldn't be bothered. I think she prefers to go without wearing underwear too - which isn't helping the smell.

She's complained about being itchy in her groin and bottom region - more in the crack of her bottom, nearer the top rather than the actual sphincter. I think it's where she's sat all day long and it's getting overly warm down there, plus not getting any air circulating around her parts possibly? She's quite a bit overweight which I don't think is helping either.

I'm reasonably sure there's no infection as she's had blood tests done for other things recently and nothing came up. She's borderline diabetic.

Bloody hell this post is long. Apologies.

I've spoken to the Occupational Therapist who noticed the smell. She just shrugged and said it's one of those things with older, immobile individuals.

I've spoken to DM directly, starting off gently and ended up being very direct. She took it well, and promised she'd make more of an effort, but there's no change. it doesn't matter how often I tell her.

On a separate note, I have a disabled daughter who is 15 and wears nappies. She is doubly incontinent, and has a bowel disorder. We're going to try installing a bidet for her, so she can get herself properly clean after every change. DM has suggested that she gets a bidet too and I'm very happy to pay for one for her if it would help.

Do you think this will solve the issue? I'm not completely convinced she'll use it but it's worth a try. Has anyone tried any other products/has any other ideas? I've done a keyword search and previous posts are mainly about incontinence whereas I think this is mainly stale groin sweat, maybe yeast-type redness on the skin which has a bad odour, and a bit of incontinence.

Also worth mentioning that DM has ALWAYS had a loose relationship with hygiene. As a child I remember asking her to wash more because her tights smelt really bad - and I can remember it was the same kind of sweaty groin smell then too!!! I think a recent decline in her mobility has just made it all much worse.

If you got to the end of this, thank you!!

OP posts:
wandawaves · 04/09/2023 05:59

If she's overweight and sweaty and with the smell and itchiness you describe, all points to a fungal infection in the skin folds. I'd recommend you get an anti fungal cream from the pharmacy and suggest she applies it regularly.
Getting her up to walk about regularly would be good too, but doesn't sound likely.

GarlicGrace · 04/09/2023 06:12

It's fantastic that she wants a bidet - if she'll use it?

Changing the cushion she sits on would help, and anti-fungal cream's a good call.

I don't know if every woman's bum configuration is the same (!) but mine gets wet in the same way as you described, more often as I get older. Baby wipes are a big help.

As she asked you for incontinence pads, she's at least leaking. Pull-ups seem the best option. Pads are pretty grim if you're sitting down all day, stuff gets squeezed out the sides. Gosh, this is a delightful post, isn't it 😬

Dettol aerosol's good for subduing smells. It doesn't last all that long if the source is still emanating, but it sounds like you could make good use of it. They do a fabric spray as well, which is brilliant but extremely hard to find at the moment. As long as your mum's whiffy skirts aren't silk, they'd probably withstand a few squirts of the room spray until she's ready to change again.

BuddhaAtSea · 04/09/2023 06:31

Does she have a walk in shower?
She needs to wear cotton. Put some wet wipes by the toilet too.
The chair cushion needs to have a waterproof cover, washed every day.
Open the windows every morning.
Water jug and glass or a water bottle by the bed, she needs to finish that every day.
Febreeze or any room spray.
Pull ons or at least a tena lady

MissMarplesNiece · 04/09/2023 06:47

I agree with PP who suggested a fungal infection. Canasten cream, which you can buy over the counter at chemist, very quickly cleared up a fungal infection I had under my breasts and which had similar yeasty smell.

Neutral, a solid "gel" air freshner is good for getting rid of smells. It doesn't have a smell of its own so your not covering one smell with another.

Beseen22 · 04/09/2023 07:05

What's the long term situation here, is she capable of showering herself or cleaning herself or does she need assistance? Sounds like she's in-between, so capable of getting to the toilet but maybe not giving herself a proper clean. Has the OT suggested she needs any care or will you be providing that care when the time comes?

It sounds very much like a fungal issue like thrush. It thrives in a warm wet environment so if she is not cleaning herself and drying herself properly and then sitting in a warm chair with moist wet skin it's not going to get any better. Wearing pads and a bidet would help if she was changing the pad 4 hourly and drying thoroughly after every bidet use. If she's not capable or willing to do these things it will make the problem much worse as she will have even more moisture against the skin. Blood tests wouldn't have shown up thrush.

Sounds like a pretty tricky situation, my DM is incredibly strong willed and has some odd beliefs around hygiene so I could see myself in that situation too some day. Her skin is so at risk for moisture breakdown if it's not being cleaned throughly and dried every 4 hours or every time she is at the toilet then sitting in her chair not changing position all day. If she's immobile she needs fresh cotton underwear on every day and a skirt or trousers that let's air circulate changed daily. I'd avoid tights.

Ihateslugs · 04/09/2023 07:14

Is it possible to get carers in a few times a week to help your mum have a shower? She might feel awkward with you seeing her naked but carers or nurses might be more acceptable. If she is overweight with skin folds then she will need help with drying between the fold after a shower and applying anti fungal cream.

We found that my mum would have a shower more willingly with carers rather than with one of her children - we were bullies apparently!

Knotaknitter · 04/09/2023 08:49

I do occasionally get a yeast infection in my belly button and I know when I have it because of the smell. Mine clears up really quickly with an over the counter cream I had from the pharmacy.

The district nurse brought mum an inflatable cushion when she had a break in her skin above the crease in her buttocks and I think there was a weekly visit to inspect the area. This could be something simple that can be cleared up very quickly.

HurkleDurkling · 08/09/2023 16:39

Baby wipes are great but mustn’t be flushed in the toilet.
Could you get her to swim regularly. I’m thinking it may not be her thing but worth a thought. Worked for a neighbour who had hygiene problems. Not a pleasant thought for others swimming - but they wouldn’t know!!

Foggyfoggyfoggy · 08/09/2023 16:41

Just wanted to say you are a fucking Saint op. Bad smells make me physically wretch...

Justcallmebebes · 08/09/2023 17:08

If she wont wear pads, can you get some absorbant large squares to put on her chair cushion and change them daily.

That would save leakage on the chair cushion but it does sound like she's not washing her groin area well enough

Paperbagsaremine · 12/09/2023 12:51

You can get Korean (Japanese style but suitable for the UK electricity supply) "washlet" toilet seats?
My Mum loved hers (she also had a walk in shower with a stool in it she could sit on).
Luckily Mum was always very well groomed though so I really feel for you OP.
Would "kitchen candles" help with the pong ? A very individual thing there .

Optimist1 · 12/09/2023 13:20

Lots of useful suggestions already made, OP. I have one more. It can be difficult to get entirely dry after washing if using only a towel. A hairdryer (on cold or very cool setting) can be aimed at all the nooks and crannies to get everything properly dry.

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