How can I help my mother who believes she is constantly dirty?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is 86 and in good health. She's living on her own, though I recently moved in across the street. Does anyone have any experience with their aging parent suddenly thinking they are dirty all the time? My mom thinks her skin is dirty, to the point where she showers for 45 minutes at a time every day. Any suggestions? She still insists that she must be dirty, that the water turns black. Thank you.

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

In my experience, older adults can develop these kind of disordered thoughts, especially if they have dementia.  If you know that your mother's thoughts of being dirty are obsessive, and they are interfering with her daily life, then she needs to be evaluated by her health care professional to see what is going on.  Many medical conditions can contribute to disordered thoughts.   If no medical cause is found, then she may then need to see a psychiatrist for a full evaluation.  I know that sounds worrisome, but these thoughts can be the sign of something going on.  Your best bet is to get it checked out.