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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Smell (the sense of smell) (07/29/10)

TITLE: Lessons Learned in Care Giving
By Dalyn Woods


“GG stinks!” As much as I hate to admit it, my niece is right. My 92-year-old grandmother DOES stink. I recently took over her full time care and was confident the problem could be resolved. After all, regular baths were all that were needed, right? Although she’s not fond of the bathing process, a regular schedule would be set and that would be that. The elderly are like children. They just need structure and guidance.

Now keep in mind, this is not your sweet, loving, frail grandmother, this is my feisty, cane-wielding, strong-willed GG and she had different ideas. “I don’t want a shower.” She whined. “I don’t smell.” She insisted. “I’m going to hit you with my cane.” She threatened. She proceeded to plant her feet firmly in place and could not be budged. For 92 she’s very strong! I tried to wait her out; sitting on the couch while she adjusted to the idea, but when she jumped up and attempted to outrun me, (did I mention she’s feisty?) I realized she had won.

Lesson one: the elderly are not children. If my 3-year-old grandson refused to get a bath, I would simply scoop him up and put him in the tub. I would punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. I can’t scoop up GG. I can’t punish her. I can promise her a reward, but since she doesn’t remember who I am, I can’t expect her to cooperate for a future treat.

The smell persisted so I did some research. This is a new millennium and the answer to everything can be found on the internet. The solution was just a click away. I found some blogs and message boards where the general consensus was – old people don’t bathe, they hoard things, and they can’t or don’t clean their house, therefore they smell.

I cleaned the house from top to bottom. I took trunk loads of unused items to Goodwill. I washed her sheets, underwear and PJs in hot water. I used Febreeze and potpourri to rid her room of the smell. I even managed to trick her into a shower. I walked in the next morning and was pleasantly surprised to smell nothing but freshness. “I have won the battle!” I silently congratulated myself. I pulled down her covers and nearly fell over from the noxious odor.

Lesson two: don’t believe everything you read on the internet. I debunked all of those myths. No hoarding, a clean house and a bathing schedule, well, kind of. But even when I successfully manipulated her into the shower, the effects only lasted a few hours, then the smell returned. The moist cloths that can be heated in the microwave are designed for freshening up, and they do smell good; they just don’t make her smell good.

I thought I was really on to something when a Web site claimed that palmitoleic acid was the culprit. It sounded very scientific and I began to get excited, a solution at last. Shiseido Company, Japan’s largest cosmetic producer, made this discovery in the 90s and developed a fragrance for the elderly that masked the odor. I can’t find it. Apparently time has proved that this doesn’t work either.

These days I style her hair, manicure her nails and ensure she is dressed to the nines. I tell myself “If she looks clean, she is clean. Perception is reality.”

Lesson three: don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember that on Sunday, when a sweet little old lady sits next to you in church, perfectly coifed, beautifully manicured, impeccably dressed, and yet, you get a whiff of an unpleasant odor, don’t blame the caregiver – she’s doing the best she can!

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This article has been read 395 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 08/05/10
Hehehe Lots of chuckles with this one! My grandmother was rather "feisty" too!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/05/10
There's nothing quite like the smell of the eldery. I knew exactly what you were talking about. Now when I smell that particular smell visions of my grandma come floating through my mind and I think about how much I miss smelling that smell and how much I miss having grandmothers.
Christine Ramey08/05/10
Good job. I laughed and chuckled too earlier reading it. Loved it. SMILES!
Barbara Mahler 08/06/10
God bless your caregivingness. May your kindnesses be returned to you in many blessings!
Jody Day 08/12/10
Congratulations! Tender and funny, loved it.