I thought it might be helpful for those of us who are caregivers to share in one place some of what weíve come up with to deal with one of the most difficult problems: the smells.
My MIL is in stage 6 of Alzheimerís. She was raised dirt poor and never learned good hygiene. What little hygiene she had is now gone. To put it bluntly, she stinks! But I am not resigned to having a stinky house just because one stinky person lives here! I shower her and change her bed linens everyday, but thatís just the beginning if you really want to control the odor.
First tip: For the benefit of your gag reflex and mental health, invest in disposable gloves. I try to always stay a box ahead. I never want to run out of this important item!
Bed odor: I have a twin bed for her so itís easier to change. I cut some blankets in half and sewed up the edges so theyíd be big enough to keep her warm, but easier to toss in the laundry. I originally got her a big beautiful comforter with matching window treatments when I was first expecting her to arrive. That comforter lasted for less than a week. It was too big and bulky to wash easily, which became very apparent after she gave it the first poop treatment. I washed it and put it away. Now I have a number of old comforters from the kids that they outgrew. She doesnít register or care that her comforters are mostly baseball designs, and theyíre less bulky so they can be laundered as often as necessary. I keep two complete sets of blankets and comforters ready to rotate as needed. Every morning one set of sheets comes off and the other immediately goes on. If the blankets and comforter are soiled, I can switch them out and have the bed all taken care of right away instead of having to wait for the laundry to get all cycled through. I usually end up washing the blankets and comforters several times a week. The sheets get washed everyday no matter what. Her mattress is entirely enclosed in a zippered bag-type mattress cover. I wipe it down with antibacterial wipes everyday and give it a spray from an odor removal such as Odoban or Natureís Miracle. If Iím not washing the blankets and comforter, I give them a little spritz of the odor remover, too, just to be sure. Did I mention disposable gloves?
Bedroom in general: No matter what the temp outside is, the first thing I do when I go in each morning is to open the windows! Sometimes her odor is so strong itís all I can do to not gag! My MIL sometimes decides to strip her bed or herself and dumps wet items on the carpet or in the chair in her room. The odor remover spray is good for carpets and the chair, too. When that doesnít do it, I have a Kirby vacuum cleaner that quickly converts to a carpet shampooer and uses a foaming system that doesnít soak the carpet. It does an excellent job and is even self-propelled so I can use it myself, even with my back issues. Kirbys are really expensive, but I got mine for about half price on an online auction site. Sometimes I go a couple of months between carpet shampooing, but Iíve done it as often as three times in one week. Once I did it twice in a single day! If it keeps things sanitized and odor free, itís worth it!
Body odor: It didnít take long to realize that something wasnít working in our routine when my MIL first came. Iíd get her into the shower, clean everything up, and sheíd arrive at breakfast still stinking. I realized that she wasnít really washing herself. She thought she was, but she clearly wasnít. So I started our current routine of getting her into the shower, then I coach her through the ďimportantĒ parts using a washcloth that I had soaped ahead of time from edge to edge front and back. Then as she continues on her own for a few minutes, I finish the process I had started while she worked on getting her clothes off in the bathroom, that is, getting her bed changed and clothing laid out. Then I go back in, turn off the water, and wash her from head to toe myself with another washcloth. Water back on to rinse off the soap and voila! Clean! But I discovered that she still had a horrible odor about her. It turned out to be her mouth. She didnít know how to clean her dentures and apparently wasnít cleaning out her mouth either. I took over that job. I now clean her dentures for her every night and have her brush out her mouth and swish with some mouthwash as soon as I get her into the bathroom each morning. Success! Yes! Sheís odor free for at least a good couple of minutes after her shower!
Clothing: My MIL was putting soiled items back in her closet and drawers. That had to stop! Not only did it make the room stink, but the clean clothes also ended up stinking. Plus it got old very quickly when I pulled clothing out for her to put on after her shower and discovered they were soiled. I removed all of her clothing from the dresser. She now uses the empty drawers to sort her large collection of junk jewelry and has never seemed to realize that her clothes are gone. Everything but her socks and underwear are now hanging in the closet. The socks and underwear are in the laundry room with the other various items I use everyday for her. (This works well for me because my laundry room is upstairs and her room, the bathroom and the laundry room are all right there beside each other.) I ďlockedĒ her closet, the kind with two big mirrored sliding doors, by using four spring tension curtain rods. I used two on each door, one at the very top and one at the very bottom, so theyíd be held closed. I also found some little closet locking devices meant to keep kids out. They adhere to the glass and flip up and down to create a tiny barricade to keep the door from sliding open. I probably didnít need both systems, but I prefer overkill in this situation. So far, so good. Sheís never gotten in, yet itís not hard for me to get in to put in her clean clothes and get out whatever sheíll wear that day. I do make sure she doesnít see me opening and closing the closet, and she seems to have forgotten that it opens. I lay her clothes out for her each day and make sure each morning that Iíve gotten every item from the day before so it all gets washed. I also do what a single mom friend of mine did years ago after her husband left her with three young kids. I put her to bed in her clothes. My friend had her kids sleep in their clean clothes for the next day so theyíd already be dressed when they got up in the morning. I leave my MIL in the clothes she wore that day. I know that even if she doesnít wet them at night, theyíre still going to be smelly because of her poor hygiene anyway. In addition, by the end of the day Iím beat and just want to get her to bed quickly, and all of her clothing is soft and comfy, no zippers or hooks, so itís fine for sleeping. Itís much quicker and easier putting her to bed if I donít have to get her undressed and then re-dressed in sleeping togs. And itís less laundry to deal with. She has never seemed to notice.
Laundry: This was the biggest challenge. I like Tide detergent. Iíve used it ever since my boys went to work for a chicken sandwich restaurant. I tried a bunch of different detergents, but Tide was the only one that got the grease odor out of their uniforms. But it isnít strong enough for my MILís urine odor. It took a while to find the right products and figure out the best method, but hereís what I do now: I fill up the washer and add either Natureís Miracle or Skunk Odor Remover to the water. I like Natureís Miracle, found in Pet stores, better because it smells nice and citrusy, but itís very expensive. The Skunk Odor Remover is much less expensive and has virtually no scent. I found it in the pet department at my local big box chain store. I load her yucky stuff into the washer and let it sit while sheís in the shower. (Um, did I mention disposable gloves?) It takes a good fifteen minutes for the bio-enzymes to do their thing and break down the odor causing molecules. Once sheís all cleaned up and dressed, her towel and wash cloth and detergent go into the washer and out go the odors! Yay! Odoban helps with the odor, but it doesnít do as good a job and I donít care for its smell. Itís not a bad smell, I just donít like it. I still use it sometimes, but I use Natureís Miracle and Skunk Odor Remover more.
Bathroom: I have lots of Windex and cleaning rags readily available, as well as antibacterial wipes. I wipe down the sink area and the potty after sheís done in the morning (disposable gloves) and after sheís in bed at night, as well as anytime needed in between. The soiled rags get dumped into the washer to be cleaned with the next load. If itís really bad, Iíll go ahead and wash them with the odor remover. I have a fantastic bathroom floor cleaner, a long handled tool with a triangular shaped head made by Scotch Brite. It uses special cleaning cloths, kind of like the Swiffer, but itís well worth paying for. I can wash the floor as needed without over-stressing my back. The hand towel gets changed everyday, too, since my kids share that bathroom with her. I also save all my plastic shopping bags and line the trash can in the bathroom with a double bag. I double it in case there are any holes in order to prevent leakage. That would NOT be good! Then when her Depends or incontinence pad goes into it in the morning, I tie it up tight and take it right out to the trash can outside, along with the odor. In goes a new double bag and weíre all set till next time.
This may sound daunting, but itís really not too bad. Once you get it down to a routine, itís manageable. Many days, Iím all done with her bed before sheís even done brushing and rinsing her mouth. Iíve done it all so many times I donít need to stop and assess or think, I just know what the next step is and it flows.
I hope this is helpful, especially to those who are new at this. Please add your own tips to the thread. Everyone is different and different solutions work for one and not another.
Oh, one more thing: be sure to get disposable gloves!
Wishing you a home filled only with lovely smells,
The Following User Says Thank You to BlueAtlas For This Useful Post:
Emma Goldman (07-13-2012)
wow you have your hands full, but I see you've got it down to a science!
It's great that you have a system that works, and you're organized enough to execute it! Your MIL is a very lucky woman to have you.
Emily what a good idea this will help the new ones or scare them off. While reading it there was a chuckle here and there because I use most of these we buy disposable gloves in a box of 200. You forgot to add roller skates to get from one oops job to the next.
here is another wonderful thing I use to spray all over the beds couch's etc and also I pour it into every load of laundry, mop water and toilets. Its for odors and for germs. oboban. I buy it in gallon jug and mix it to spray everywhere. If my dogs are to slow they get it too lol.
Off subject some but does anyone use aquaphor for rashes or dry skin it's a blessing
There are some great ideas in there Emily. I can attest to the effectiveness of Nature's Miracle. I discovered it when we got a new puppy and have used it for a LOT of applications. In AL there was a definitely odor in the bathroom (probably from the previous occupant) when we moved Mom and Dad in. I just sprayed the tile with Nature's Miracle and left it... repeated the process... and the odor was GONE! I have some at the care facility now which I have used when Mom or Dad had accidents. Next thing I knew the facility staff was asking what was in that bottle. Now they use it everywhere
Love the idea of locking the closet, putting out clothes, and making sure the dirty ones are taken out. But letting Mom sleep in her clothes is great. Actually we sort of do that with Dad. He sleeps in his boxers and t-shirt. The pants and shirt come off and he is ready for bed.
Beyond that, disposable gloves and disposable wipes are sent from heaven
WOW !!!! You are one CLEAN and organized lady. A must when you are a caregiver. I think you've earned the trophy for "Queen" of clean. Your post was unreal and so very sweet of you to tell us your ideas. Its going to be such a help to those who have loved ones at home.
Thank you so much. I've already told my friend, who's Mom is dealing with her Grandma at home, some of the things you use. She grabbed a pen and started her list. So many great ideas Emily.
Right now I am singing the praises of those Safety First Magnetic Tot locks. They are now installed on the cabinets in Mom and Dad's kitchenette and they are wonderful. Mom will pull on the handle and decided it doesn't open and walk away. Inside we can keep all the things that Mom and Dad don't need to have access too. The caregivers have a fob and they are thrilled to have somewhere to put the things they have chased, hunted, and search for all these months They can be installed easily on any drawer or door.
Emily... if you don't have the magnetic fob you can't open it (any really strong magnet would do). They use them in the Rem Center so the caregivers already have their fobs. I bought Mom and Dad's so I have one and Sister 2 bought a set for under her kitchen cabinets to keep the grand kids out so she has one. The same fob will open any lock set. I LOVE it... now I have all the clutter off the top of the kitchenette cabinet and don't have to haul my bag around all the time.
I just snorted my diet Mt Dew Martha. I remember my 8 year old locking us out of TV programs. We finally had to ask her to fix it and she did. The beauty of these locks is the fob. it's like having a key but there is nothing visible on the outside. I have watched Mom come up and pull on it a couple of times, look around for a latch perhaps, and then walk off.