Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Why Do Care Homes Smell of Wee?

Nigel Slater got me thinking the other day.  I was listening to the Radio 4 dramatisation of his book, Eating for England.  He chose a home for his much loved Aunt Elvie based on the fact that it didn't smell of wee.  If ever I have the horrible task of doing this for my mum or dad, that would be high on my checklist too.

Now some of the homes that I visit wouldn't meet my own or Nigel's criteria.  Even some where you'd think that all that should be making your eyes water is the price of staying there.  But is this somewhat inevitable? One of my colleagues thought that it might intermittently be the case in places where often residents with challenging behaviour are doubly incontinent . Certainly lots of carers on the Internet think that it is too. My favourite Viz-like top tip was to shove a load of Vicks up the nose before going to work so as not to notice the smell.  But is this really the answer?  Even though I thought I knew what the solution might be  I decided to investigate by quizzing a residential home manager.  I've got to know her well over the years.  She has an almost pathological obsession with searching out and eliminating  nasty niffs and her work place which, in spite of being carpeted and soft upholstery, smells as fresh as a daisy.

Surprise, surprise she told me that it's down to good cleaning.   When someone, for instance, has wee-ed on a cushion it isn't just turned over in the chair!  Accidents are dealt with immediately using neutraliser and good cleaning products.   The company that she buys from have trained her staff in their proper use.  What's more, the  residents have regular toileting regimes which means that they're not so likely to have accidents and they're changed quickly when they do by kind, sensitive staff who know the people that they are looking after.  Just one poor lady there is so seriously incontinent that it was difficult to keep up with cleaning the carpet in her bedroom and a decision was made to replace it with lino.

And that's it.  No rocket science or strict residency criteria based on super hot bladder and bowel control needed!   Then again I didn't expect anything different.  I'll be spreading the message far and wide now. And perhaps by writing this it will help others to get the word out there too.  Your relatives don't need to live in stinky care homes.  If you're told otherwise there's likely to be some very poor excuses involved!


  1. Hear hear! Many years ago when I worked in a dementia care home at the weekend [small baby back then] we used to clean up properly as soon as there was any kind of accident and the residents were changed immediately if they had had an accident. We all attended health and hygiene courses regularly and if you were on the care team you did not go anywhere near the kitchen. That's part of the package. Arilx

  2. This is a generalisation, but because so often 'being a carer' is the job of last resort and many regard it as a temporary solution until they can find something better, it must take amazing energy and determination on the part of the management to inculcate high standards of kindness and care in their staff... often the workers are paid as little as possible, so applicants for these jobs aren't necessarily cut out for going the extra mile in caring for the old or disabled... If pay-rates were such as would attract really caring carers, standards would soon rise. I'm in the age bracket when being cared-for is not very distant, so to hear people like you being vocal and concerned is just wonderful.

  3. I haven't been in many care homes, but I do remember one in particular. I was invited to take my mobille shop, fancy goods and giftware with a cat theme, to their Christmas Fair. The minute I stepped inside, I wanted to do a runner, the stink knocked me back. I stuck it out though because the residents wanted to look over my wares. All the time I was wondering how it got so bad. They asked me again the following year, I had to tell a little white lie saying I was already booked for that date.

    I do admire people who do that job, I couldn't do it.

  4. This is too close to home today. we are waiting for an ambulance to take my mom into hospital for a week's respite as her sciatica is so bad we could not get her back into bed from the bathroom. We are lucky to have a GP led unit just down the road and even more fortunate, they had a bed. She struggles along well most of the time and credit to her...no smell.

    1. Hopes she's better and out of pain soon xx