Dirty Old Man

11 Dec

Letterbalm Bar of SoapDear LetterBalm: My father-in-law doesn’t pay much attention to his hygiene. He’s lived alone for 10 years since my mother-in-law died, and has rarely taken a shower, washed his hair or changed his sheets.  My sister-in-law and I have been going there to clean and do laundry every couple of weeks. We’ve tried to get our husbands to talk to him about his lack of cleanliness, but nobody’s made a real effort. Well, he fell a couple of months ago and lay there for a day until a neighbor heard his cries. So, after a family council, he agreed to sell his house and move into a wing of our home. But he’s adamant that he won’t take daily showers and brush his teeth. In frank terms, he stinks. We need to lay down the law. What to do?

–Don’t Want a Smelly Geezer

Ms. L.B. assumes you and your husband have ruled out physical and psychological reasons for your father-in-law’s reluctance to come clean. How is his mobility/agility? Is he in pain? Would he be embarrassed having a male caregiver come in and help bathe him three times a week? Would he feel better with a shower seat or other aids? Can his doctor and dentist talk some sense into him, understanding that disease breeds more easily in a dirty body? After all this, your husband must man up and talk with his dad before he moves in:

Dad, Sheila and I are looking forward to having you in our home. It means a lot to us to have you close by. You’ve gotten a clean bill of health from Dr. Gurney and the dentist, and we’re much relieved. But there is one thing we must settle before you move in. Under no circumstances will you be allowed to let your hygiene go. This is unacceptable and unfair to everyone. If you want, we can go online and look at some aids to help you in your shower. If you prefer, we can talk about hiring a male caregiver who can help you bathe and wash your hair. In any case, our cleaning lady will be cleaning your rooms, changing your sheets and gathering your clothes for the laundry. Whatever you decide, you must commit to keeping yourself clean. We want you to spend lots of time with us and the grandkids.


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