How do I tell my father-in-law he smells?

How do I tell my father-in-law he smells?

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.

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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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