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by Abigail Van Buren

Family Shies Away From Subject of Incontinence

DEAR ABBY: I have a wonderful mother-in-law who recently turned 92. For the past five or so years, she has struggled with urinary incontinence and uses adult diapers. However, her urine really stinks. I don't think she changes her diaper often enough, and the smell is really strong throughout the day. I'm also afraid that by not changing often enough, she may get an infection.

Her children refuse to discuss the issue with her, so nothing is being done to change the situation. I find myself distancing from her since I can't stand the smell. I have researched the topic, and I don't think there's anything that can be done to address the incontinence issue due to her age and other medical issues. However, I think if she drank more fluids so her urine wouldn't be so concentrated, the smell wouldn't be so bad. I have talked to her about drinking more water for other reasons, but she doesn't want to because then she would need to urinate more.

I really love my MIL, but I can't stand to be near her. I feel like I'm only the daughter-in-law and that any discussions should come from her children, but they don't want to bring it up with her. What can be done? -- KEEPING MY DISTANCE

DEAR KEEPING: Has your mother-in-law seen a urologist and been told nothing can be done about her incontinence problem, or is she so embarrassed she hasn't seen one? Because her children refuse to discuss this with their mother, the ball is in your court. Please talk to her and urge her to see a doctor. Because when people age their sense of smell can diminish, she may not be aware that she has the problem you're describing.

She does need to drink more water and change her diaper more often than she's doing. Her mental and physical health could depend upon it. But she also needs to see a urologist.

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