Let's face it. Sometimes the home where eldercare takes place can get a bit . . . smelly. Everything from incontinence accidents, medication side effects, closed windows, poor hygiene, and a penchant for mothballs can conspire to make your house lose its once-cheerful, cozy, clean odors. Time to freshen the air with these strategies:
1. Start the day with clean routines.
Some caregivers find if helpful to weave cleaning right into the fabric of the day. For example, strip the bed right after your loved one rises, then wash the sheets and his or her nightclothes while breakfast is taking place. Doing this often may seem like a drag, but it minimizes odors and becomes a habit the person expects, rather than an opportunity for resistance.
2. Open windows.
Much of the foul odor that can permeate a house comes from its sheer concentration. It's easy to feel reluctant to open windows to heat or cold with a fragile person around, but fresh air is good for everyone. Even in the depths of winter in a cold climate, a few minutes of clearing fresh air can help odors dissipate. Open the windows in the rooms where your loved one isn't.
3. Invite in naturally sweet smells.
Counter the stuffiness with flowers that give off a strong scent, such as gardenia plants or marigolds. Set out bowls of potpourri that you change out regularly (if you can be sure a loved one with dementia won't try to eat any if it). Cut open lemons or limes in the kitchen, squeeze them to release some juice, and leave them out. Stud an orange with cloves for a more decorative spin on the same concept.
4. Make your own deodorizer.
You can find plenty of sprays and artificial scents at stores, but these introduce chemicals into your home that may not be the best for you or your family. Try making your own: Soak a cotton ball in lemon extract, orange extract, vanilla, or peppermint extract, then place it in a clean glass jar with holes punched in the lid. Another trick: Boil cinnamon sticks (or ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or another favorite spice) in water on the stove for a few minutes and let it sit.
5. Don't let urine-stained clothes sit out.
Even small leaks can add up to big odors. Use a covered hamper, and empty it regularly. Even better: Use plastic hygiene bags (also called sanitary disposal bags) that have been treated to mask scents; look for them at hospital-supply stores.
6. Treat yourself.
One caregiver made a daily can of diet soda and a candy bar her personal bribes to herself. She'd tackle the bathroom, then wash her hands and allow herself a portion of her treats before moving onto the next room. Hey, whatever works!