A tricky situation

I live with my parents-in-law and it’s driving me insane to the point where I feel like a prisoner and have confined myself to my bedroom as it is the only safe zone. What’s the problem? My MIL smells of urine.

Firstly I’m not trying to be insensitive, she had a hysterectomy many years ago, has type 2 diabetes and was confirmed by the hospital last year that she has no bladder control and also has a prolapsed vagina. She is currently on the waiting list to get this corrected. She is 63 years old.

The smell is on her clothes to the point where if she sits down on a seat, the seat will hold the smell and then transfer onto whoever’s clothes who sits down after her. The first time it happened it transferred onto the duvet in my bed where I went to watch TV in the bedroom to the point where I had to wash the sheets as the smell was so bad.

FIL works from home and his office chair was soaked one day (after she had sat on it) and when my husband mentioned to him quietly that his mum’s incontinence was the cause, we were then accused by both of them as being the ones who were incontinent and had done it! Given that we are 29 and 30 and no health problems, certainly no toileting issues, and also they know that we know she has issues, the whole thing has become ridiculous now. They live in denial about the smell and every area of the house that she has been in, quite frankly reeks.

She refuses to wear incontinence pads and only has thin panty liners (the type you wear for a light period) so can’t see those ‘containing’ anything. She also smokes and likes to drown herself in perfume so her sense of smell is off at the best of times.

We have tried talking to them like adults about it, but as already stated in example above, they both choose to deny there is a problem and treat us like idiots. It has come down to me and husband using fold up chairs to eat at the dining table so that our clothes don’t smell. I’ve tried talking to her one on one gently, but she strops like a teenager and slams doors and shouts. I understand that she’s embarrassed but it just ends up compounding the problem even further because nothing is ever resolved.

It’s getting to the point where hopefully early next year when we will be house-hunting that I don’t want either of them visiting our new home, for fear of her ruining our furniture. It sounds really petty but I am at my wits end. What can I do in this situation? :(


  • Person_one
    Person_one Posts: 28,884 Forumite
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    Your poor MIL, how awful for her, she must feel so embarrassed.

    There's not a lot you can do to help her, sadly, if she is too embarrassed at the moment to admit to the problem. When/if she is ready to talk about it and deal with it then there are fantastic continence products available these days and there is no need for her to smell or have leaks onto clothing or furniture.

    If I were you, I'd move out with your husband sooner rather than later because your presence doesn't seem to be doing anybody any good, you're getting frustrated and losing sympathy and she's getting belligerent and defensive. Maybe when its just her and her husband and not an unrelated younger woman in the house she may feel more able to acknowledge the issue. She should be able to access a specialist continence nurse by asking for a referral from her GP or diabetes nurse.
  • emmatthews
    Technically it is their house, so if they are happy with it smelling of urine then I guess there's not much you can do.

    I do understand how unpleasant it must be for you though. Is there any other family that visit? Maybe if they could have a gentle word with either her or your FIL then it may help.

    Has your husband ever tried speaking to his Dad about it when his Mum isn't around?
  • zulu01
    I feel sorry for your MIL.

    What's preventing you from moving out?
  • *max*
    *max* Posts: 3,208 Forumite
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    Good god. I would NEVER have mentionned it to her, ever. Trust me, they know about her issue! You are her guest in her house. Telling her about it, even "sensitively", is hugely inappropriate and incredibly rude and humiliating.

    You have two choices: you put up with it, or you move out. They - she - is doing you a favour by letting you live in THEIR home. And you go and tell her she smells of wee? Christ on a bike...
  • lika_86
    lika_86 Posts: 1,779 Forumite
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    Move out then.
  • rach_k
    rach_k Posts: 2,236 Forumite
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    It must be horrible for you all.

    Are you sharing a bathroom? Could you get some incontinence pads from a brand that also do sanitary pads (I think Always do a range) and then use them, leaving the open packet in the bathroom cabinet? If questioned (unlikely!), you can just say they give better protection than standard sanitary pads and a friend recommended them. Making them less of an 'embarrassing old lady thing' and more of a normal (ish!) women's thing might make it easier for her to accept using incontinence products and possibly pave the way to more heavy duty products if necessary.
  • Rachel83
    Rachel83 Posts: 335 Forumite
    First Post
    edited 26 October 2016 at 10:22PM
    Your poor mother in law. Sometimes it's easier to hide and wallow in self pity than address the issues. To be honest blaming her for the situation when she's on waiting lists for surgery is rather sad. She must be highly embarrassed, addressing this with using fold up chairs at tables etc must be making the atmosphere in their house pretty rubbish!
  • iammumtoone
    iammumtoone Posts: 6,377 Forumite
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Post I've been Money Tipped!
    I am surprised you are still living there think yourself lucky you have not been asked to leave.

    How embarrassing for your poor MIL to see you using fold up chairs, do you think she doesn't ' know why.

    Of course she knows she has an issue so will your FIL but he is being the supportive husband, I am sure he is not keen on the situation either but he is waiting for his wife to feel comfortable to do something about it - that is not gong to happen with you acting like your are.

    Either do as your FIL carry on as normal and just live with it (it will resolve itself eventually either with the operation or your MIL making her own decision to get help) or move out, you are adults it may take you a bit longer to buy your own house but that is the decision you need to make (live there without complaining or wait longer for own home)
  • onomatopoeia99
    It's not your house, you are a guest. If you don't like living with your inlaws for what ever reason, move out. It's not like the two of you are teenagers, you've both been old enough to vote for a decade and are still living with one of your parents and complaining about them.

    Why are you still there if it is so unsatisfactory?
    Proud member of the wokerati, though I don't eat tofu.Home is where my books are.Solar PV 5.2kWp system, SE facing, >1% shading, installed March 2019.Mortgage free July 2023
  • Kynthia
    Kynthia Posts: 5,668 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    The poor woman, how awful. Women are not given tge correct support and treatment after having children and then after the menopause many have prolapse issues.

    What are you hoping to achieve? It's her home. Also this is a very embarrassing problem so are you sure you and her son, at your ages and the length of time you have known her, are the people to be 'talking to them about it like adults'? I'm also not comfortable about you sharing her detailed medical conditions in a way that's possibly made her identifiable to anyone on here who could know her (you've put her specific age and other medical conditions , your specific ages, that you live with his parents, and that the husband works from home). You've already raised the issue and been shut down so that's it. Sitting there on fold down chairs isn't going to make things any easier.

    Please take out some of the details from your post. Also I think you should move out as you aren't happy there, you are making her unhappy, and it's her home. You don't even own a property yet so worry about that when it happens but hopefully her surgery will correct things.
    Don't listen to me, I'm no expert!
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