Poor hygiene habits

Hi everyone. My mum has lived with me and my family (me, husband, daughter (17) and son (13)) for 10 years now. Mum’s 87 and was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in November 2019. She has the kind of dementia which affects speech and behaviour rather than memory. I don’t know how much of her behaviour is to do with her dementia, but I’d appreciate any advice anyone can offer. Mum has bad personal hygiene (doesn’t wash her hands after using the bathroom) and often gives herself diarrhoea as a result. She started using hand towels instead of toilet roll, so we installed a hand towel dispenser in the bathroom. I often find suspicious brown smears on furniture and have started cleaning several times a day. She likes to snack a lot, so I put all of her snack food into 2 cupboards in the kitchen which she can easily reach. Today I opened a cupboard higher up and found an open packet of cream crackers which smelled suspiciously like poo. My son said that she’d been eating them while I took my daughter out for a walk. I’ve binned the crackers and cleaned everything, but whenever I try to talk to mum about this (or anything else) she just laughs at me. I am still teaching a full timetable from home and am finding things really hard to deal with at the moment. Maybe I’m just too tired/too close to the situation to think of a solution. Has anyone experienced this before / could suggest something that might help? Thank you!

Hi Rosie and welcome

I’ve found some links that may help …

Although you may well have already googled.

quite old threads but you may find some help.

Does Mum share the same bathroom as the rest of the family.

Are there signs in the bathroom/door about washing hands etc

Not a UK site but might be good to read.

Unfortunately, it maybe a case of someone prompting and/or being with Mum. While she completes the task of washing her hands.

How to help someone with dementia to remember to wash their hands regularly

You are doing an amazing job!!

I’m afraid this is only going to get worse, as the dementia worsens.
It’s not your fault, or mum’s fault, she can’t help it. Talking to her isn’t likely to help as she isn’t going to remember.
The time has come to look at residential care options, talk to Social Services, and start the process. Don’t delay, everything is taking so much longer.

I had the VERY best mum in law in the world, never ever a cross word between us, but sadly, like her mum before her, she developed dementia and spent her last year in residential care. Last year, her daughter, my equally lovely sister in law died at the age of 73. She also spent her last years in residential care due to dementia.

Thank you both for replying - I will have a good read through those links tomorrow and I feel a bit more positive now. I’ve had a quick look and have picked up a couple of good ideas that we’ll try tomorrow.

Mum has her own bathroom - we moved house 6 years ago so she could have a bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor (she was starting to struggle with the stairs). I have just ordered another hand towel dispenser (the other one was bit hard to use), and will put a sign up on the back of the door too.

We’re already on the list with social services as mum slipped in the supermarket a couple of years ago and we didn’t know how we’d be able to cope. There was no space in a care home though, so she was brought home by ambulance with a fractured hip and no way of getting around!

Guilt-wise my husband promised my dad he’d always look after her the day before dad passed away. She’s also Chinese, and culturally it’s expected that the children will look after the parents by taking them in. My sister and I never had a close relationship with her though (sister doesn’t really have much contact with us now), and she’s never cooked or cleaned for herself. (So it’s hard to know if her behaviour really is dementia or mum just being mum.) We had the conversation when she first moved in with us (when realised she didn’t intend going back to her own home) and she looked terrified and made it clear she didn’t want to go into a home. A friend of hers has just moved into a care home though, so maybe that’s the way to start a conversation.

We have a virtual dementia clinic on Thursday, so I hope I’ll be able to get more answers then.

Thanks again for the advice - it is much appreciated.

Try to concentrate on what she NEEDS rather than wants.
No one wants to be Ill, or widowed or disabled.
How old are you and your husband?

I’m 47 and my husband is 48. I think, from her perspective, she is happy where she is because we do everything for her (I’ve heard her tell her friends this on the phone). But you’re right - needs and wants are different things.

Hi Rosie,

I started a reply yesterday and then never got to finish and send it.

Living with this must be difficult, and although there are various strategies you can try such as supervising hand washing, putting up reminders and so on, these will only work in the short term as her dementia will progress and I assume you will be back to face to face teaching again.

I agree you need to start to plan ahead. Despite your husband’s promise to your Dad, it sounds like your Mum will need more care than you can provide. In some areas there are care home specifically for Chinese elders and this may suit her well.