How can we get Grandpa to have more sanitary habits?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My fiance and I moved into my grandparents to take care of my grandmother who has severe Alzheimer's. We moved in almost two years ago. She is sometimes a challenge as she requires total care including bathing dressing and feeding. She is not our biggest problem, though. My grandpa is, he takes care of himself and feeds Grandma most of the time. The problem is his attitude. He is very negative wants to die, doesn't wash his hands, touches everything and most of all he acts like he is the one doing us a favor. It is getting harder and harder to live in this situation. He has accidents with his bowels and doesn't clean himself very good. Even after a shower he still smells. I feel guilty most of the time because I clean everything and he thinks I have a cleaning fetish, but I can't even cook without washing the dishes before we eat because he touches them with his dirty hands. We have tried to talk to him about his habits but he becomes irate as soon as we open our mouths. I am at wits end. I want to leave but I feel guilty about that too. I love my grandparents very much (they raised me from the time I was five years old.) I just dont know how to deal with the situation anymore. I promised to take care of them but I feel like if I dont get out I'll go crazy.

Expert Answer

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

This sounds like a really tough situation.  First, I want to say that taking care of one older person is difficult enough, but taking care of two- that can be too much.  You sound stressed, and this situation is not going well even though you are trying your best.

Your grandfather sounds difficult, as he has something going on.  His negative attitude and issues with cleaning himself show that he may be depressed and/ or have memory problems himself.  I would try to get him to the doctor's to see if they have something to recommend for him. 

But, again, your living situation is not working out.  What are your options?  My thoughts include:

  1. Keep living with them, and see what happens.
  2. Keep living with them, but hire someone to help out with your grandparents, especially with bathing your grandmother.
  3. Help them move to an assisted living facility.  They would get their own apartment, but someone is there to help them when it is needed.
  4. Nursing home.

So, you really need to come up with a solution soon, as you need to take care of yourself FIRST.  This is not selfish- it is reality.  You cannot care for two older adults if you are too burned out to do it.  You have done your all, but caretaking is a 24 hour 7 day a week job.  It is just too much!

I think you should consider the assisted living facility.  This way, your grandparents have independence and their own space, but they can get the help they BOTH need.  You should also contact your local Center on Aging and see what they can do to help.  Sometimes, they will have programs available to help assist you and your grandparents with their care needs.  Good luck!