To be frank, my mother’s house is starting to smell like urine. It’s obviously not a pleasant odor to walk into. When we ask her about it, she pretends we are daffy and says we need to “mind our own business.” This is rather embarrassing, as other relatives and friends also visit her. Mom will simply not have the conversation with us. What should we do about Mom wetting herself?
What you are dealing with is called incontinence. This is the industry term for someone who does not have control over their urination or defecation.
Incontinence can be as difficult to manage with loved ones as age-related mental impairments. When the family member experiencing the incontinence is unwilling to acknowledge or solve the problem, you need to take immediate action because this is serious. The good news is there are solutions, and they are not complicated. Your challenge is your mother’s attempt to hide what is going on.
It is likely that your mother is well aware of her incontinence. After all, wet pants are cold and uncomfortable. Unless her pants are wet when you see her, she is changing her pants when it happens. What is not occurring is the necessary cleanup to prevent the lingering smell and soiled furniture. For families with loved ones experiencing incontinence, this missed-step is not uncommon.
Regarding the smell, note that by the time it develops, there have usually been more than a few incidents that were not cleaned. Right there you have a big warning sign that this is more than standard incontinence. Not only is your mother incontinent, she does not have the physical or mental ability or desire to clean up after herself. Also note that the smell will not go away until the rug and furniture are either thoroughly cleaned or removed.
First of all, recognize that we all become somewhat used to the smell of our home and numb to the impact it may have on others. Note how you notice the smell when returning from a vacation or weekend away. If your mother does not get out a lot, she may have become unaware of how it smells.
You can face this problem head-on.
- Mention that the house smells like urine and that you will help your mother resolve the problem. Then work on it immediately, that day.
- Throw open the windows, bring the cleaning tools to tackle the job, and get to work.
- Bring along pads for mother to wear. Let her know that many women following child birth have similar challenges. Even though she did not just give birth, the comment helps normalize the situation and makes it less of a big deal.
- I recommend that she discusses the challenge she is facing with her doctor to rule out infection or other problem that can be treated medically.
- Be positive and cheerful during the process. Remember, you are there to help, not criticize. If Mom can work by your side as you cleanup, it may make the situation all the better for your ongoing relationship.
In the future, keep a close eye and nose on the situation. If mother is unable to protect the environment and manage her personal affairs, she may need a supervised living situation. I would visit more often and watch the situation closely for a time.
I wish you the best.
Family Caregiving Advice Column
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