DEAR DEIDRE: My father-in-law reeks, and I don’t know how to tell him. 

I’m 54 and my husband is 60. His dad is 88, and he has come to stay with us over Christmas.

The smell is so awful, it makes me feel sick to be around him


The smell is so awful, it makes me feel sick to be around him

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He’s been widowed for two years and lives alone.

I have given him a clean towel and his own soap and I gently pointed out where the bathroom is when he arrived, but he hasn’t taken the hint.

I even offered to wash his clothes for him, but he says it’s not necessary. Yet I know he only changes his underwear once a week, if that.

The smell is so awful, it makes me feel sick to be around him. Mealtimes are an ordeal.

He really does have the odour of an old tramp – like stale urine mixed with damp and rot.

My husband and I discussed it last night, and we think he is depressed or even becoming senile.

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I think his late wife used to look after him and since she’s gone, he’s given up. He does seem confused.

How do I talk to him about his personal hygiene? 

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DEIDRE SAYS:  Perhaps it would be better for your husband to speak to his dad, so he doesn’t feel humiliated.

Maybe he could buy him some new clothes too, as a gift. 

My support pack, Freshness Worries, could help you both to deal with the situation.

If you’re worried your father-in-law may have dementia, please contact Dementia UK (, Helpline 0800 888 6678).

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