This week on Parents Are Hard To Raise…

Are Your Aging Parents Beginning to Smell like an Old Shoe?    Here’s what Scientists say.

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Have you begun to notice that your parents and their house have begun to develop a dull, kind of sweet stink to them?  You’re not alone.

Don’t tell Betty White, but elderly people really do have a chemically-distinct odor, and it’s more common than you might think.

Like other body odors, “old people smell” is produced when chemicals from the skin glands get broken down into small odorous molecules that drift away into the air. Scientists suspect the specific chemical that gives your aging parents their unique odor is a compound called 2-nonenal, which produces what’s described as an “unpleasant greasy and grassy odor” similar to that of stale beer.

In Japan, where the thought of old people smelling poorly is of particular social concern due to the high value placed on personal hygiene, the cosmetic firm Shiseido Group has introduced a perfume to neutralize the offencive odor the Japanese refer to as kareishū (加齢臭), which translates to “smells like an old shoe”  (no.  only kidding.  I have no idea what the translation means).

Another line of Japanese anti-aging odor products, Mirai Clinical, uses persimmon extract as a natural deodorizer against it.  The tannin in the fruit supposedly dissolves 2-Nonenal in a similar way lemon juice knocks out a fishy smell.  Mirai Clinical sells body washes and soap designed to eliminate the problem.

Sorry Betty, the truth is… old people smell.  It’s now a proven biological fact of aging, and yet one more thing we as children of aging parents have to look forward to.

Would you try a soap just for “old people smell?”  FB me your comments, please. 

Resources and links for episode 18

  • Ventilation
If your parents do not open their windows for rear of an intruder coming in, there are  a few simple solutions.  One is made by Andersen® Windows.  It’s for double hung windows.  The Andersen® double-hung window opening control device kit includes a right and left-hand device. The devices are installed on both sides of the sash and limits the opening of the window to less than four inches when the sash is first opened.  You can easily Release the device from inside, and allow the sash to be fully opened allowing ventilation and/or emergency escape and rescue. The opening control devices are automatically reset once the sash is returned to its fully closed position.    My husband came up with a low-tech option… Get a 3/4 inch wooden dowel from your local home improvement store, and cut it to a length that, when placed between the upper and lower sash, only allows the window to open about 4 inches. You can secure it to the inner sash with industrial strength double-stick tape  .
  • Shower Safety

A lot of older people avoid bathing because they are unsteady in the shower.  Here’s the Shower Seat I recommend to my clients.  It’s comfortable, stable, easy to keep clean and a great help to the caregiver when bathing a person with dementia.   And since people with dementia can be frightened by water hitting them in the face, I also recommend a handheld showerhead.

  • Extreme Temperature Alarms and Solutions
The very young and the very old tolerate heat very differently than the rest of us.  Excessive heat kills thousands of elderly every year.   If you are not able to check in on your parents on a regular basis, there are a few high-tech solutions.  One is to install something like a nest thermostat that you can control with your smartphone.  Another really cool solution comes from my plumber, Rich.    It’s the HS-700 HomeSitter from Protected Home .  It is the lowest cost multi-functional home monitoring system on the market.  The HomeSitter will sound an audible alarm and call up to three telephone numbers to protect your parents home and them from harm caused by temperature extremes, water leaks or power failures.  Rich says the Alarm set-up takes just a few minutes, can be done by anyone who can “chew gum and walk at the same time” and there are no monitoring fees or installation costs.  Rich installed one of these in his mom’s home last year and he says it has already paid for itself in peace of mind.  All you need is a phone line and a power outlet.
  • Too Much Stuff
And if your parents are anything like Annette and Joe… living in a house surrounded by stuff (seriously, my dad could star on an episode of “Extreme Hoarders”),  there’s always 1 800-GOT-JUNK   (good luck with this one).