Home General my dad is turning into a dirty old man

my dad is turning into a dirty old man

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My dad is 94 yrs old and has been losing his short term memory over the past 5 years. He had shown a few surprising personality changes including inappropriate, insulting comments to his remaining family and possibly others about my mother. My mother died over 20 year ago. At the moment, he seems to have given up repeating some of the more unpleasant comments. He is still very capable, living on his own and active but has always lived a solitary life by his own choice so consequently is quite lonely. He refuses to go to senior centres or the like, as he feel they are too old for him, and tries to strike up relationships with women much too young, 30 – 40 yrs of age.

The main issue we are now having is that he is becoming personally dirty although he just spent $30,000 to get a complete set of new teeth. He moved from a house to an apartment about two years ago and refused to throw out anything consequently the apartment is absolutly packed. He has not cleaned the apartment since he moved in. My sister & I have gone over a couple of times in recent months to make a dent in the squalor (not an understatement) as we feel it is approaching health hazard levels. Although we have removed bags of stuff, it is hardly noticable. He is not happy with us for doing this although what we have removed are things like dozens of plastic bags, old sheets that belonged to my daughter, etc. and he refuses to get rid of any furniture/pictures/junk (!) Many of his clothes are “holey” as well as dirty, plus worn out shoes but to him, they still have a lot of wear in them — which may be true if he was a bum living on the street. He has closets stuffed with other clothes.

Other people I know with aging parents have had similar problems with filth and clutter which isn’t mentioned in the information about dementia out there that I could find, although, among my friends, it seems to be a common thread.

Can we get him to care for his home and his personal cleanliness? I should add that he doesn’t keep his apartment clean after our visit. This is not our only concern, but it is our greatest at the moment. Also, he refuses to see any doctor and there is no point in pressing him as I have already approached him many, many times over the years on that subject.Thank you for any help you can provide.

It’s very sad to watch a man who was once a capable, kind person become a virtual stranger. It does sound to me like your dad is suffering from dementia.

Dementia is a result of changes that take place in the brain which affect the person’s memory, mood and behaviour. Hoarding, lack of self-care, and becoming disinhibited about what they say are not unusal behaviors.

Hoarding is often triggered in people your dad’s age because their brains put them back into the Depression. Others relive experiences in their lives where things they valued were either threatened or actually taken away. The lack of self-care may be because he doesn’t remember that he hasn’t washed or doesn’t recognize when his clothes are dirty. And it’s not unusual for a formerly very polite, well-spoken person to shock family members with insulting and off-color speech.

You won’t get anywhere talking to your dad because your dad isn’t there for you to talk to most of the time. Even when he does seem to be his old self, he is likely to forget again within hours or minutes. In a way, it’s not fair to get frustrated with him. It’s the dementia that is doing the thinking, not him. Conditions in his apartment are now a risk to his health. So — it’s time to get your doctor involved. Even if he won’t go, you and your sister could go for a consultation and to get a referral to local services that can help you.

I don’t know what resources are available in your country. I did find this web site that might give you some direction: care for the aged

I hope you find the help you need so that your dad can spend his last years with dignity and you and your sister can be less worried and more able to enjoy the moments when he can be really with you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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