When Elders Need Care: Home Environment

By Sylvia Todor
Sylvia Todor AuthorEven with a close friend or family member, talking to someone about unpleasant odors in their home isn't an easy conversation. However, Sylvia Todor, Regional Marketing Director with Kindred at Home, explains that tackling this tough subject may be in the best interest of your elderly loved one.

It's important to understand what odors in an older adult’s home could be telling you. A home may smell musty or moldy because the person can't meet the physical demands of keeping a clean house, but other factors could be adding to the problem.

You may notice your loved one keeps the home very warm and the windows are never left open – even when the temperature outside seems mild to you. Because the body's ability to regulate temperature changes as we age, the elderly are more prone to heat loss and they often feel cold – whether it's December or August. Other senses such as smell decline as well, so an older person may not notice musty, stale odors.
Aside from the physical changes in the body, there may be emotional issues as well. The windows may be closed and locked because your loved one is afraid of what's outside or feels vulnerable being alone in the house.

Another reason the home may be stuffy and smell musty is because of the items accumulated over a long life. Boxes of old clothes or photographs stored in areas that get damp or laundry that isn't completely dry can cause mold. Dust builds up in rooms that are rarely used, or that are full of furniture and personal items that may not be cleaned regularly. When there's no fresh air in the house, the odor of dust and mold can be very intense.

If there's consistently a stale or bad odor in your loved one's home – whether it's due to poor air circulation or dust and mold that may have gone undetected in clothes, furniture or other items – it may be time to consider personal home care assistance. Not only does this provide help with personal care, light housekeeping, laundry and linen changes, it also provides companionship to relieve the sense of vulnerability when being alone in the home. And you will know someone else is helping to look out for your precious friend or family member.