The Nose Knows

18 Jul

Dear LetterBalm: I’m not sure how to deal with this because it’s a sensitive issue. My dear friend is a woman in her early 70s. We’re retired, active and healthy, and we’re in a group of other retired women. We love to discuss books and movies, we see museum exhibitions, and we dine and travel together. In the past two or three months I’ve detected the odor of urine on my friend, who, in all other ways, is well groomed. The odor is barely noticeable, but it’s definitely there. So far, no one in the group has said anything, so I don’t know if they’ve sensed it. I feel I must tell my friend, but how?

–A Delicate Matter

This is the sort of problem for which friendship was made. As her close friend, you have a right and responsibility to tell her. Wouldn’t you want your trusted friend to tell you? Ms. L.B. recommends a talk with just the two of you, preferably in her own home, so she might tend to her toilette there and then. She might become embarrassed or defensive; your role is to reassure her that you’re on her side and will help her. There are incontinent products and washes that can be delivered privately, for one thing. Put yourself in her shoes and see if this works:

Moira, I need to talk with you about something that is a delicate subject. So I’ll just come right out and say it. In the last two or three months, I’ve smelled a urine odor on you. Maybe you have started a new medication or changed an old one, so this could be a side effect you’re not aware of. You always pay such attention to your hygiene, so I know you’d want me to tell you this, not some stranger or someone in our group. No one has said anything, by the way. So, can we talk about this, if you want to? Is there anything I can do to help? We might talk about privately-delivered incontinent products or a visit to a good urologist. I’m your friend, and I’d never want you to be embarrassed or uncomfortable.

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