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by Abigail Van Buren

Cleanliness Is a Concern in Aging Mother's House

DEAR ABBY: I have an issue that I can't be the only one with, especially as our parents age. My mother has never been the cleanest or most sanitary of housekeepers. Everything "looks" neat and straight, but look closer and you'll realize her place is unsanitary and filthy.

When I visit, I am near tears the entire time. My husband tells me to stay in a hotel, but I don't know how to tell my mother I don't feel comfortable staying with her. I bring along my own towels and washcloths. I take us out for meals so we don't have to use her dishes.

I'm not a clean freak, and this is not my imagination. A friend of hers contacted me to tell me she was concerned about Mom because she doesn't seem to notice how dirty her house is or that her food is spoiled. I'm embarrassed for her.

I've tried to talk to my mother about this many times in the past, but she just doesn't get it. I have had her carpets shampooed and brought in professionals to do deep cleaning. How can I tell her I can't stay with her any longer? -- GROSSED-OUT DAUGHTER IN MARYLAND

DEAR DAUGHTER: Tell your mother that you love her, and you have been concerned for years about her living conditions, which is why you hired professional cleaners periodically to help her. Delivering the message that you will be staying in a hotel when you visit is the least of your problems. Clearly, she needs more help than you can give her.

I, too, am concerned about the fact she doesn't know the food in her refrigerator has spoiled, and for that reason, I'm suggesting you discuss this with a social worker in the town where your mother resides. She may need someone to check on her regularly, ensure that her kitchen and fridge are kept clean and grocery shop for her. Believe me, you and your mother both have my sympathy.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Health & Safety | Aging