I know the real words, diarrhea, feces, manure, excrement, fecal matter, bowel incontinence, but let's face it, when your incontinent elderly mother or father is covered in poop from butt to floor, it doesn't matter what they call it, you just want to know how to clean it up quickly!
If you are just looking for the list, scroll on down, but maybe you are like me and need to know that you are not alone, which is why I am sharing my story.
A couple of months ago, my mother in law fell down in her condo and laid there for two days before she figured out how to call me. Once I got the message I sent my husband and he brought her back to our house.
Well, come to find out, the fall had exasperated a memory problem and made her even more cantankerous than usual. So for at least a day and a half she refused to let me clean her up, insisting that she was fine… sigh. The back of her legs were covered in poop and pee, which I was FINALLY able to clean up.
So the very next day my husband got her up to go potty and she had explosive diarrhea through the house, which my husband sort of cleaned up and I spent HOURS steam cleaning to get out of the carpet.
This was repeated two more times when I had to clean up mom who will not take a shower (what the hell? that would make it SO MUCH EASIER to clean her, but no!)
Literally, each time she had poop from her lady parts down her legs to the floor, across the floor, all around the house!
Come to find out that she had C diff which is a diarrhea causing virus that the elderly get at the hospital or can pick up at the doctors office. If your mom or dad has explosive poop for days, for sure have them checked for that!
I Have Germ OCD
Okay, I am a Mom so I have seen some things… my kid plays lacrosse so we have had blood. There were the occasional “accidents” growing up, but since they were kids we just pulled off pants, tossed them in the washer and the kid in the shower and called it a day.
But since Mom won't shower, all cleaning has to be done up front and in person.
I am not some sissy, but I am finding out that cleaning up literal rivers of poop is outside my germ tolerance level!
6 Products To Help When Cleaning Up Elderly Fecal Incontinence
I am not some kind of eldercare expert, I only know how to clean up one poopy butt, but I did learn some things from the nurses during one of Mom's hospital stays. Here are 6 products that can make cleaning up poop easier!
Alright, this may be the least eco-friendly item in the world (I am a vegetarian and tree hugger) but it makes taking care of your incontinent parent so much less creepy!
I don't know why I never thought of these, but being able to grab some gloves makes wiping a poopy less of a trauma inducing event and more of a “just cleaning up back here” kind of thing!
MedPride Powder-Free Nitrile Exam Gloves, Medium, Box/100
I know, wearing a full-fledged, neck to toe gown may seem like overkill, but hear me out. One of the things that makes me totally grossed out is being poop-adjacent.
So I would clean up Mom, spend a couple of minutes hanging out and then have to strip down, throw my clothes in the washer and take a long hot shower to get the heeby-jeebys off of me. Wearing a full gown takes that step away because you simply do a pop-on, pop-off into the garbage bag and you are ready to go!
HALYARD Impervious Gowns, Disposable, Plastic Film, Universal, Blue 69490 (Pack of 15)
Disposable White Washcloths
When we first started with the cleaning I thought that I could just use regular washcloths, like that I already had in my house. But seriously, once you have doused one of your good ones in poop, it is hard to think of it the same way again while taking a relaxing spa-like shower.
Buying a stack of these is WAY less expensive than running to Macy's every time you have a cleanup in the house. The nice thing is that for a little mess, you can just throw them into the washer with some bleach. For a big mess, just throw them out with the gloves and booties!
Soft Touch Linen Terry Cloth Face Towels, 12 x 12-Inch, Pack of 60, White
NOTE: These washcloths are the NUMBER ONE recommended thing that I get emails from readers about! Having the ability to throw them in the washing machine and bleach the snot out of them is truly a game changer!
Additional Resource : How To Get The Smell of Poop Out of Your Laundry
Hands Free Hand Sanitizer
I KNOW, it can start to feel like your house is a convalescent home, but hear me out on this one! Being able to do a shot of hand sanitizer without touching anything else can save you from having to clean your entire sink in addition to the whole toilet and floor area.
Take off your gloves, put everything in a garbage bag and then give yourself a little refreshing shot of super clean hands!
Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Foam TFX Starter Kit
Non Cream, Non Gel Bleach Cleaner
If you have only used bleach cleaner on your counters or toilet to date, you might not know that the current fad of “gel” bleach cleaners is slippery as heck on a floor.
The first time I used one I squirt, squirt, squirted it around, rubbed it with a paper towel and then almost fell on my ass when I slipped on the “gel” residue left behind.
Cleaning up poop off the floor or toilet is not a fun job, but using a plain jane, industrial strength cleaner that isn't slippery makes it so much better!
LYSOL Brand 78914CT Power White & Shine Multi-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach, 32 Oz Spray Bottle (Case of 12)
Note, there is a kind of bacteria called Clostridium difficile or C. diff that live in poop. They can be spread when a person has been hospitalized, taken antibiotics or isn't good at washing their hands after going potty, like many older people are wont to do.
While I am a tree hugger and hate using bleach, I know this is not a time for white vinegar and cold water, using small amounts of bleach strategically will help keep my family safer from germs!
According to the Mayo Clinic's C. diff page, “all surfaces should be carefully disinfected with a product that contains chlorine bleach. C. difficile spores can survive routine cleaning products that don't contain bleach.”
You know all that poop you are touching? Could have these creepy crawlys so get you some bleach!
No Touch Floor Steam Cleaner
This one is kind of a “bonus” one, but also is a great tool for when you are doing a ton of floor cleaning. Of course, do the bleach cleaner for your first pass, but then hit the floor with a steam blast.
The nice thing about this cleaner is that you don't have to touch the pad, you can just plop it into the washer without having to touch poopy pads.
When I started I was using a cute little steamer that worked great when I was doing kitchen messes, but which did not seem so nice when I was having to touch pads that had touched poopy floors!
Shark Genius Hard Floor Cleaning System
Products To Help Caregivers Deal With Poop Wrapup
If you are reading this post you are probably in the same situation that I found myself in! NO ONE is happy to have to clean up incontinent family members, but we still want to keep ourselves safe and keep our houses clean and germ free.
For real, if this is a problem in your house, spend some money to make the whole process less heinous.
I was really getting mad at Mom when I felt like I had to touch poop without gloves and proper products, but now cleaning up poop is a joy (seriously joking, but sucks a little less!)
Since writing this post a couple of years ago, I have talked to SO MANY people dealing with loved ones who are incontinent.
There isn't a whole lot of practical info out that we can reference (most of it comes from the medical field and is great for in hospital settings, but us at home caregivers are struggling to find real world solutions for our home care!
One Funny Keyword I Rank For Is “Granny Pooping”
Okay, we all know that granny actually pooping is not fun, but seriously, if we can't laugh we will all just fall down on that bathroom floor sobbing.
Seriously I think that the question is, why do the elderly poop their pants so much?
While there are various reasons, I attended a conference about dementia and one of the speakers talked about the fact that when people's brains change with dementia, their ability to understand their bodily functions diminishes.
So their body is not telling them they need to poop or even that they have already pooped.
Here is a link to the official version of why they lack bowel control (but just knowing that Mom wasn't doing it deliberately helped me be less grumpy) Toilet problems, continence and dementia source Alzheimers.org.uk
How To Clean Dried Poop Off The Floor
I am an expert at this one! AND it has a super simple solution that will make you smack your head and go “duh”, of course!
My first round of poop cleaning is NOT the bleach kind, I use Grove products that smell nice (I like to smell rosemary while I am cleaning poop!)
Squirt, squirt, squirt your cleaning fluid all over that poopy part and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
THEN get a paint scraper from the garage and scrape it off the tiles… what?!?! That is so darn easy to do!
That scraper will have loads of germs on it, so don't put it back in circulation, instead clean it off with bleach and then keep it in your bathroom for the next time you need to clean up poop!
Speaking Of Poop on the Floor
One thing that people ask me about a lot is why do dementia people poop on the floor, on the walls, functionally anywhere but in the toilet.
So first off, after watching Mom wipe herself, I know she gets poop on her hands and then transfers it to the grab bars on her toilet, the toilet paper holder and also the toilet tank.
It is not on purpose, just some of the medicines she takes makes her stool loose and then her eye hand coordination is bad to so hitting the right “wipe spot” is tough.
Now, let's get all psychological for a second…. when we adopted our kids from foster care, they warned us there would be poop issues in almost all distressed children.
They would wipe poop on walls, hide toilet paper and more… great!
But seriously, it is because they have control of their feces even when they don't feel like they have control of anything else in their world. Makes sense!
After watching Mom for the last few years and seeing her confusion about why this is happening, I can imagine that having control over ANYTHING must feel like a win in her mind!
Knowing about this doesn't help the ICK factor, but may make you a little more compassionate with your loved one!
Thursday 2nd of March 2023
My goodness, thank you for taking the time to write this! I have been the sole caregiver for my (now 95 1/2) year old Mom - and there were some small issues before (manageable) we are just hitting this milestone of major misses and I wondered if what I was doing was right.
Some great advise in your column (a few tips I already had from my respite caregivers, eg: always have gloves on the ready) but you and the other commentators have provided a good many more. And just knowing I am not alone helps.
Tuesday 14th of February 2023
I read your article carefully, it helped me a lot, I hope to see more related articles in the future. thanks for sharing.
Monday 30th of January 2023
Thanks for your tips. Still trying to figure out how to get my 90 yr old mom's butt clean when she showers. She insists she gets it clean, only to get up off the bench & there's brown poop on it. Ugh. :-/ She won't let me help her - like to take the spray shower head while she leans on one hip so I can spray her crack. Just insists she's getting herself clean, when she's really not.
Saturday 24th of December 2022
You’re hilarious!! It’s nice to hear someone talk like this otherwise you feel like you’re living on crazy street and no one else goes through this!!! Thank you!
Tuesday 20th of December 2022
Hi, I'm the 24/7 caregiver for my father (veteran 68) and he's on hospice now with copd, lung cancer and dementia. He's hanging in there though. I can't completely get the smell of poop and urine out of his bedding and clothes. Any advice would help so much for him and me. Thank you for your article, it helps.