Last week, my family (all 8 of us children), traveled back to Madison to visit our parents who live in an assisted living and nursing facility. Our parents are in their mid to late 90’s and my Father is a WWII vet. My Dad is now in full hospice care, after a terrible year of random falls due to osteoporosis and my Mom is now in memory care after a dementia diagnosis 10 years ago. You see, my parents lived together in assisted living, even though my Mom has dementia and no longer has a short term memory. Her confusion and constant barrage of questions that were repeated over and over to my Dad, finally wore on him. The pandemic trapped them in their small apartment for weeks on end, with no family allowed to visit them inside their apartment. Before the pandemic hit, their 1 bedroom apartment always smelled badly. A combination of 2 showers a week for my Mom (because she needed help…and of course she THOUGHT she had showered every other day), and a total lack of housekeeping services that the facility is supposed to provide. With that said, an aging body starts to chemically change around the age of 40. Many scientists think this comes from a break-down in skin as people age. It’s a compound called 2-nonenal and these odorous molecules shed from the skin into the air to create this smell. It’s almost like stinky cardboard. Now…this is not the only thing that can contribute to the bad smells you will experience when entering a nursing home or assisted living facility. It’s the urine, especially within a nursing care or memory care facility where the majority of the residents wear adult diapers. The hard reality hit home this past week as these facilities opened back up to family in-person visits. And with my Dad in full hospice care now, we were allowed to visit any time without making an appointment. It is truly shocking to witness what these facilities are like and how they smell (although, this is another story for another day).
Bottom line, I am not sure what the right answer is for anyone who wants to keep their parents or grandparents smelling better, much less yourself as you age. Maybe we all have to accept the fact that as we get older, so does our skin and our chemistry will change. The only advice I can give is to take care of your body (both inside and out) and make sure you take care of your feet, as they seem to suffer the worst as you age. Don’t get me started on the toe nails!