Author Topic: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative  (Read 2948 times)

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lkdrymom

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How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« on: December 24, 2012, 09:29:38 AM »
I need some ideas on how to start this conversation with my father.

Friday we were at a family funeral. My aunt came to me and said I really needed to talk to my father about how he smelled.  This is no shock to me...but it is the first time someone has actually said something to me outside of my kids or husband. My father has always had poor hygene. She asked if he was washing his clothes enough. He has access to a laundry at his apartment complex but for some reason does not want to do that. He prefers washing his clothes in the sink. When he visit me he always brings his laundry and does it here.  However he doesn't visit as often because he no longer wants to drive so he only is here on holidays and birthdays(when someone else will drive him).  There are not enough hours in the day/week for me to start bringing him here to do his laundry regularly or for me to do it for him. Considering he has access to a laundry I don't think that should even be considered as an option.

I know most of us would want to be told if we were doing something to offend others.  I'm not so sure about my father.  I just envision him getting upset when I say something to him. Do I even tell him  and if so how to I go about it without hurting his feelings or offending him?

cicero

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2012, 09:48:13 AM »
hugs.

i've had to have similar conversations with my 81 year old stubborn as a mule father who can do nothing wrong ever  ---- so i know what you are going thru.

My father had to be convinced that he needs a hearing aid, that he needs a cleaner in the house (he was content with *never* actually cleaning, just straightening up and pouring cleaner down the toilet every now and then). he has to be told that no, no way, he is not getting on an airplane unless he gts travel insurance and we don't care how much it costs.

now - i was having an issue with his food. He was mostly eating out and thought he was doing ok. i knew he wasn't. so i managed to convince him that i will go with him to a dietician - and believe it or not, *that* actually worked. having someone else (a professional) tell him what to do seemed to work (well, for the most part).

so - would that work for you? can you get a social worker or doctor or nurse to step in? if not, you will have to be honest with him - try not to sugar coat too much and do give him practical advice:
"dad, I don't want to hurt your feelings but a few people mentioned to me that you had a really strong body odor the last few family gatherings. I know this would bother you beacause you've always been so fastidious. Let's see how we can solve this - (and list a few solutions - maybe he needs a washer/dryer in his house? maybe he can use a service? maybe hire an aide who will help with the laundry?)"

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RebeccainGA

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2012, 09:58:10 AM »
He may be afraid of the shared accommodations, or unsure how to use them, or embarrassed to have someone else see his dirty things. I had a roommate like that my freshman year of college - we had to almost force her to learn, because she stank up the whole room with weeks of old clothes. Perhaps helping him do them at his facility once or twice, and making sure he knows how to do them, would be a huge help.

mstigerlily

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2012, 10:11:21 AM »
My first reaction was maybe he needs some help- a maid or someone to come in once every week or two weeks to help with laundry, etc? I'm wondering if he has other messes in his home and the clothes are an external (visible to others) sign.

Second (and this is probably unlikely but possible) could this hygiene problem be a sign of underlying problem? If this was a sudden change that can be a sign of mental issues such as dementia or depression.

Lastly, you don't mention your mom. Some men of a certain generation (and some hold outs in younger ones...) relied their wives to do all the housework and just never learned how to do chores like laundry. My grandfather was one of those- not sexist or ignorant, he just never learned. Maybe your dad fits into that mold, in which case some gentle tutorials might just do the trick.

QueenofAllThings

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2012, 10:48:00 AM »
If he can afford it, I'd suggest a once weekly housekeeper. Schedule for a day ( if possible) that Dad is generally out of the house.

YummyMummy66

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2012, 12:03:17 PM »
I am a caregiver for seniors in their homes.  We do personal care and home helper care, which it sounds like your father needs.

Being in the home, (we would also note down in our journal that we provide for our clients) and be aware of any changes your father might be going thru.

We can go in weekly, daily, etc.   Our office can do anywhere from two, three or four hours shifts.  This could be one day a week or every other week, (as I do for one client), but it sounds like your father needs weekly help.

Also, it might not only be his clothes, but his own personal hygiene that is lacklng.

I know here in Berks County, PA, we have over 30 some agencies that do this type of work.

This might be something you should look into because of our background and monitoring, we would be better than just a housekeeper who would not be trained to look out for certain things or behaviors.

As a home helper, I clean bathrooms, toilets, sinks, tub and floors, same for kitchen, take out trash, vacuum, dust, organize if needed, laundry and also help prepare meals.  We can also take the client grocery shopping or do the shopping for him with a list provided.  We can take clients to appointments.   Personal care, which is a higher fee would involved bathing client or anything involving clients body, (checking wounds, applying creams, bandages, changing depends, etc.).
« Last Edit: December 24, 2012, 12:07:40 PM by YummyMummy66 »

AmethystAnne

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2012, 12:10:25 PM »
OP......Is there an organization called Visiting Homemakers in your county?

lkdrymom

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2012, 12:39:30 PM »
I am not so sure it is his laundry as it may be his poor hygene.  He has always been like this so I can't see him changing. I did notice his home was not as clean as he normally keeps it. His diet is good. He doesn't eat junk and does eat alot of salad.  He was of that generation that had the woman do all the house work/cooking but once my mom died he learned to take care of himself pretty quickly (and he can finally use the microwave which he fought learning for years).

I doubt he would qualify for any free services provided to seniors and I am sure he would not want to pay for any services.  He is capable of cleaning up after himself. I just wonder if he notices things as well as he did in the past....which is what I need help with bringing up the subject.  I know my father and if I tried to take care of things he would act helpless and expect me to do everything for him.

I am hoping to get up the nerve to say something to him when I take him home after Christmas. I think I just might go into his apartment and start pointing out things (dust, excessive fingerprints on the walls.). I just need to find a 'nice' way to bring up the subject.

Isisnin

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2012, 12:54:08 PM »
Asking about his health would be a good way to start.  "Dad, are you alright?  I and others are very worried about you since you have a constant bad smell."  Something like that and take it from there.

Also, is your aunt his sister/  This would be something appropriate for siblings to help with too.

SPuck

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2012, 12:54:58 PM »
Does your father have any male friends you could get to talk to him? It sounds like you might need an out sider's perspective/someone who he doesn't expect to nag him to get through to him, and it might help if it is someone from his own gender.

lkdrymom

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2012, 03:36:14 PM »
The aunt is his brother's widow. And he hangs out regularly with a retired doctor.  But I really don't know his friend well.

JoyinVirginia

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2012, 04:12:52 PM »
Your father may not WANT to pay for any services, but he may NEED to pay for some in home services if he wants to remain independent in his home. My mother fussed about paying, but she was able to stay on her home as long as she did because of help from a companion/ homemaker who would drive her to doctor appointments and the store, help her with bathing, laundry, and housecleaning, even took her cat to the vet. Encouraging him to get some help in the home for cleaning and laundry once a week might be a good start.
Edited to add, as my mother got older she was more fearful of falling. She would not get into the bathtub unless someone was in the house with her. Could your father be avoiding bathing because OS similar fears?
« Last Edit: December 25, 2012, 02:20:02 PM by JoyinVirginia »

oceanus

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2012, 04:34:47 PM »
Quote
I am not so sure it is his laundry as it may be his poor hygene.

This is what I'm thinking.  I think the problem is him not washing/bathing, using soap and deoporant.  I don't see it as a laundry/housekeeping problem.

Sad.  I remember an uncle who ignored personal hygiene after his wife died.  A couple of my brothers had to go over and gently guide his bathing, shaving, find a clean shirt/suit, give him a haircut so he could attend another relative's funeral.  Fortunately they brought new underwear, socks, deodorant,and washcloth/towel.

OP, hopefully a personal care aide or a male friend/relative can help.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2012, 05:40:57 PM by oceanus »

Carotte

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2012, 06:57:06 PM »
Sense of smell can also diminish with age, maybe he's not really aware of how he smells? that could be a point of entry "Dad, I'm wondering if your sense of smell is not going bad, I think you might not have noticed but your deodorant is failing you" - even if you are sure he doesn't use deodorant, it's a roundbout way of telling him he needs to.

Rusty

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Re: How to have an awkward conversation with an elderly relative
« Reply #14 on: December 25, 2012, 02:58:53 AM »
It sounds to me like you need to step up and take some action over the hygiene issue.  If he has been staying with you over Xmas have you noticed whether he has been bathing.  I would insist that he have a shower if he was staying over.  Do you visit him on a regular basis, as surely you could throw a load of washing in to be done while you are there.  If not, a weekly or fortnightly home help sounds a good option.  Unfortunately sometimes the elderly become very stubborn, I have a 93 year old father who still lives in his own home, but we arranged for a personal carer to come in every second morning to shower him and put on a load of washing, if she didn't come in he wouldn't shower.  Sometimes you just have to become the parent to your parents.