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Question re: family members living with you and cleaning

Honu3421
6 years ago

My very elderly mother lives with me. She has the ground floor master suite and pretty much refuses to let me come in to clean the bathroom, insisting she does it herself. (she straightens up, but does not deep clean and I don't expect her to). Our house cleaner comes every other week and is a sweetie, but really doesn't do the best job in the bathrooms. I clean the other bathrooms in between visits, but DM is creating a problem. In a perfect world we would just let it go and renovate when she passes. But this house was just built and any renovation is not going to happen in my lifetime.

Am I overreacting? Should I just let this go? Is this a control issue for her? Me? (Not! LOL!). With people losing their homes to hurricanes and fires, I know this seems like a trivial issue. But it has me fairly depressed. About once every four months I get the urge to go in there and clean and am always hit with resistance. Okay, definition of crazy comes to mind here!!

I just want to get in there and do a deep clean now and then. I guess I can replace the toilet and shower fixture trim (Hansgrohe - heavily water spotted). But it's the fully tiled walk in shower that is giving me heartburn. DH and I squeegee and towel dry our shower after each use. No water spots and no mildew. Please don't criticize my tile or grout choices, this is a post about asserting myself over a controlling relative. Or not.

And I understand that this woman has very little in her life that she is able to control. So there's that. Thanks for listening. Maybe I just needed to rant.

Comments (36)

  • Sherry8aNorthAL
    6 years ago

    Can DH or someone take her somewhere without you? Then you go in and clean.

    Honu3421 thanked Sherry8aNorthAL
  • 3katz4me
    6 years ago

    I would insist upon cleaning the bathroom. I can see how maybe she doesn't want a strange housecleaner in her space but she needs to let her daughter who owns the home in there to clean the bathroom. I would just tell her in some kind of caring, empathetic, thoughtful way that you ARE going to clean that bathroom on a regular basis.

    Honu3421 thanked 3katz4me
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  • Jmc101
    6 years ago

    Clean when she is out. Place her items right back where they were.

    don’t tell her you are doing this - just do it.

    Honu3421 thanked Jmc101
  • Bunny
    6 years ago

    I agree with 3katz. I would firmly insist upon it. It is your house after all.

    Honu3421 thanked Bunny
  • nosoccermom
    6 years ago

    You say " Our house cleaner comes every other week and is a sweetie, but really doesn't do the best job in the bathrooms."

    That's something that I'd address with the house cleaner, i.e. deep clean bathrooms, and then tell my mother that it's the house cleaner's job.

    Your mother may not want you to do clean her bathroom and room but may be perfectly fine to have a house cleaner do it. If not, I'd follow suggestions above.

    Honu3421 thanked nosoccermom
  • Fun2BHere
    6 years ago

    I suppose you will have to be kind, but firm, and tell your mother that you will be deep cleaning the bathroom weekly (or at whatever interval you prefer). Perhaps you can explain to her that the finishes need a certain amout of maintenance to hold their value.

    Honu3421 thanked Fun2BHere
  • mtnrdredux_gw
    6 years ago

    Can you ask her why she doesn't want it cleaned? That might help you craft the solution.

    Honu3421 thanked mtnrdredux_gw
  • maddielee
    6 years ago

    Is there mold? Or rats? How elderly is she? How dirty is the room?

    I would find a different house cleaner first. Then try to accept that a used bathroom won't look like brand new build after use. (Especially if the owners aren't the ones using it).

    But, it can be cleaned again.

    It's ok to rant.

    Honu3421 thanked maddielee
  • Honu3421
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Oh, thank you all for your caring responses!

    S_7b: yeah, I hear you saying find a work around. After hitting
    submit, I thought about that. A friend usually takes DM to church
    on Sunday. I was planning to use yesterday to clean, but at the last minute she decided
    not to go. She rarely leaves the house without me. I am usually not around on Sunday, so it's a challenge. Unfortunately DH is not helpful. He's supportive, but works long hours, has very little time off, and taking mom out on weekends is not going to happen. However, he will watch sports with her on TV which is nice. (she can't tolerate the sun so no activities are possible during the daytime - unless its going to the dr. or pharmacy).

    Jmc: I think cleaning when she goes out is probably the answer. She really keeps a clean room so putting things back is easy. I only need to get in there to clean this frustrating sanigloss toto (never again), the shower and her sink which is caked with bar soap film. So, pretty simple. Unfortunately, aside from church, she goes out rarely and usually for less than an hour. But I can certainly do this in snatches.

    3katz and Linelle: You are both so right that I should be able to insist in a caring, thoughtful tone and then she would agree. But it is a control issue for her. It turns into an argument and I am realizing more and more that I do not like conflict. She is fine with our house cleaner doing the cleaning. She just doesn't want me in there. I suspect is has to do with her views that I should not be cleaning for her and I think on some level she considers it loving to refuse my overtures. I have told her in the past that it's silly for her to clean at her age and jokingly told her I have no intention of cleaning when I am her age! That went over well once. But she has become more territorial about her space since then.

    I'm giving some thought to hiring a second cleaning group. I just got a name and I can tell her I want to try them out. And then maybe segue to using them once a month.

    Thanks so much for your support.

  • chickadee2_gw
    6 years ago

    I don't think you're being unreasonable. is there anything she could do to 'help you while you're cleaning the bathroom? Cut up vegetables for a soup or something so she feels she's being helpful?

    Honu3421 thanked chickadee2_gw
  • Olychick
    6 years ago

    One of my friends is facing this with her 90 year old mother and it turns out she is having problems with incontinence and is too embarrassed to let the house cleaner clean the bathroom. (My friend's mother lives independently, though). Perhaps that is happening with your mom? I agree with others on a way to clean the bathroom when she's out. If no one else takes her out, then recruit someone to clean it while you two are out.

    Maybe appeal to her memory of insisting you keep your room clean when you lived with her? Now it's your turn.

    Honu3421 thanked Olychick
  • Sherry8aNorthAL
    6 years ago

    Well, I think the cleaners are the way to go. No, I wouldn't argue with her. Stress to your current or new cleaners EXACTLY what you want done to the baths. Especially to your mother's! If she doesn't mind them cleaning, that is the way to go. Then if she is out of the house for a little while, slip in and check.

    Honu3421 thanked Sherry8aNorthAL
  • Honu3421
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Chickadee: yes, she does want to be helpful. And she is always asking what she can do to help. Very perceptive of you. And she does help a lot in the kitchen. She really does leave a small footprint and I am so lucky she is so low maintenance for her age .

    LOL, Maddilee!! Some shower mold - no rats, yet. Waiting for the cockroaches since she takes food into her room! Thanks for putting this in perspective. Unfortunately, we are enmeshed with the house cleaner, hence my thought about getting someone in to deep clean periodically. And yeah, the room won't be new - we need to be okay with that. It is functioning so well for her and we are so pleased to be able to accommodate her in her last years. She is near the end of the actuarial tables.

    Mtn: I could and probably should have that conversation. I hate for her to think she needs to do any cleaning when I am perfectly willing.

    Fun: can't explain that to her without her ending up feeling the pressure to wipe the fixtures after each shower. And at her age, I am lucky she does so much on her own. I don't want her to ever think she needs to do more.

    Nosoccermom: Unfortunately, enmeshed with the house cleaner. And I do sometimes work with her.

    Thank you each for your thoughtful responses.

    With regard to our house cleaner: I would love to switch to someone else. But here are my thoughts: she's cleaned my homes for more years than I can remember. She has probably missed 2 days. Both of which she was sick. She is honest and I have never had damage nor has she taken anything. So those things go a long way for me. And my philosophy has been that, in our work, there are always things we do well and things we don't do so well. I never mind picking up the slack for the little things she misses. Better the devil you know.....Although I will be checking out this other reference for periodic deep cleans.


  • terezosa / terriks
    6 years ago

    I don't know why you are paying a house cleaner who doesn't do a good job with bathrooms!

    For me, so long as it's not a health hazard, I'd let it go. (well actually, I'd hire a competent house cleaner) I think that it's a small thing to do for your mother.

    Honu3421 thanked terezosa / terriks
  • Sherry8aNorthAL
    6 years ago

    Oh yes. Keep your original house cleaner. My son is on #4. One left for good reasons. Two he let go for stealing. If you can find a good one (or a team) for deep cleaning, even twice a year. Bathrooms, windows, ect.


    Honu3421 thanked Sherry8aNorthAL
  • PRO
    Anglophilia
    6 years ago

    Ask the house cleaner to do a better job - let her know her job depends on this.

    If your mother is very elderly, this is a problem that will resolve itself in the near future. It's unlikely she will live another 15 years. When she is gone, a good cleaning will solve everything.

    Honu3421 thanked Anglophilia
  • Honu3421
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Olychick: yes, she is incontinent and I was thinking later that maybe she didn't have her business from last night put away into the trash. She has always been fastidious and is losing that a little bit so I am sure that all plays into her response.

    Terriks: I hear you, but there is an enmeshed relationship that I am not comfortable sharing on line. I do need to find someone to fill in and be available when the day comes that she no longer cleans houses.

    S_7bAL: Yes. I am thinking quarterly deep clean and windows!

    Thank you for your support. This is such a nice community.

  • Honu3421
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Anglophilia: Good point on the self-resolution. Thank you for the honest reminder.

    Thanks to each of you for hearing my rant and for your kind responses.

    There are times I am frustrated with her and then times I hate myself for being frustrated. I know I expect her to act like a younger form of herself and don't always recognize she is absolutely acting younger than her age, but still elderly. I see her walking, bent over with cane, and my heart just goes out to her for her stubborn determination to carry on. BTW, she has lately taken to tossing the OTC medications doctors give her during visits. So I am learning to laugh!

  • Bunny
    6 years ago

    Honu, my hat's off to you for sharing your home with your mom. I was always grateful that my mom, who lived to be 99, had the means to stay in her town in a very fine skilled nursing facility.

    My cleaners are pretty good, but I notice things they either miss or ignore entirely. There was a dirty baseboard behind my cats' water dish (imagine that!) in plain sight and I put a sticky on it that asked them to please clean this. It got taken care of. Sometimes you just have to point out the obvious and make it known you are paying attention.

    Honu3421 thanked Bunny
  • 3katz4me
    6 years ago

    If she will let the housecleaner do it then just give your long and loyal, trusted housecleaner specific instructions about how you want that bathroom cleaned. I've never had a housecleaner who didn't want to be informed if something wasn't getting cleaned the way I wanted it. If you're willing to accept whatever she does in your other bathrooms at least have her do what you want in this one that you can't just go in and clean yourself.

    You sound like someone who might be uncomfortable saying what needs to be said and what may be perfectly acceptable for fear it will raise a conflict or make someone uncomfortable. I can relate to that but I've learned to overcome it for the most part. DH has trained me to ask myself - what's the worst thing that's going to happen - usually it's nothing much.

    Bless your heart for taking care of your dear old mum.

    Honu3421 thanked 3katz4me
  • PRO
    Anglophilia
    6 years ago

    I'm 74 and DD gets very cross with me from time to time. I think much of it comes from her being very angry that I'm getting old, and due to my chronic respiratory problems, I can't do all the things I once could. I was always very independent and would take on just about anything. I think she doesn't want to think of me becoming yet another "thing" on her plate, too. And I think it's easier to be angry than realize how much she's going to miss me. This is the child who got quite nasty a month or two before she left for college - I could do NOTHING right, in her eyes. After than, I read somewhere that this is quite common - it's far easier to leave home (most likely for good!) if one is furious with ones parents about just about everything, then admit how terribly one will miss them. I think I see a pattern here!

    Honu3421 thanked Anglophilia
  • llitm
    6 years ago

    I recently had a guy come in who steam cleaned the tile floors, granite countertops, couple of area rugs and our shower. He thenapplied a sealer. Anyway, though I clean the shower regularly and we squeegie and wipe down the glass after showering, there were still issues with grout and tile discoloration. The steam cleaning did wonders. He also recommended spraying down the shower when finished showering to wash away soap scum; I've found that it does seem to help. Anyway, maybe a periodic steam cleaning?

    Honu3421 thanked llitm
  • User
    6 years ago

    I had a similar situation and I still feel "guilty" about putting my foot down. But I did and I really think it was the only way to go. Eventually he ended up needing to go into a nursing home and there he had no choice. It's your house and you have opened up your home -- you are being totally reasonable.


    Honu3421 thanked User
  • bossyvossy
    6 years ago

    Honu3421, you are ahead of the game in that you are very clear about your feelings and what may be your Mom's feelings. At this stage, I think it is a waste of time to rationalize with her, just get her out and clean when she's away. She might bring it up and you can say "it is important To me to keep a clean bathroom for you and it's easy to do". She might ease up at that point.

    Honu3421 thanked bossyvossy
  • nannygoat18
    6 years ago

    Honu3241, role reversal is never easy for either parent or child and you have received many good suggestions.

    Here's another possible reason for your mom's resistance. Being a mother may be an important part of her identity and perhaps she doesn't want to surrender the last vestige of being "mom" by having you clean a very private area of her living quarters.

    Regarding the housekeeper--trust is a very important component and it's value cannot be overstated. She may not be the very best but if you can leave her alone and never worry that she will engage in unethical behavior, she's a gem.

    Honu3421 thanked nannygoat18
  • Mrs. S
    6 years ago

    I have an idea to help the housekeeper. Invest in a few new cleaning implements, like a long-handled scrub brush or the kind with the sponge that pops off. A few special bathroom products, that are only for toilets (Toilet Duck comes to mind), and a box of latex gloves. Do the same with the shower products, and keep them in a special bucket. Its easier to do with the right products, and not having to work as hard; let the products do the work. just a thought!


    Honu3421 thanked Mrs. S
  • Yayagal
    6 years ago

    I would never do anything that would upset my Mom, I'd find a way to work around it.

    Honu3421 thanked Yayagal
  • deeinohio
    6 years ago

    Would she use a daily spray for the shower and faucets to minimize buildup? That should be within her ability.

    Honu3421 thanked deeinohio
  • Honu3421
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Thank you so much for the new comments and ideas. DM actually came to me to apologize. She just didn't want me taking on additional effort because of her. I know she meant well and of course I feel badly for having been frustrated. But we worked it out. She is saving all dirty bathrooms for me!! We had a good laugh. DM is very private and it's hard to have a meaningful conversation with her. This has been a reminder to me to work a little harder to find different approaches of communication with her.

    Linelle, 4Katz and sheilaaus122: thank you for your kind words.

    Anglophilia: I am so sorry for the difficulties you are going through with your daughter. I hope you can find a communication approach to help you work things out.

    Deeinohio, Mrs. S and DGS2015: I appreciate the cleaning ideas and will try them out to see which one(s) work for us.

    Nannygoat18 and Yayagal: Ultimately, we don't want to upset relatives who are approaching end of life. I need to remember to try to understand the motivation behind the words and not react to the words themselves. I suppose being a mother is more important to her identity than I realized.

    Whew! This has been so cathartic. Thank you each for your kind and thoughtful comments, ideas and support. I feel so much better. And I have new tools in my tool chest - for cleaning and for communication!

  • Honu3421
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Hi, Ratherbesewing. That's good advice for any situation! And thank you for your kind words.

  • nosoccermom
    6 years ago

    I think it's great you talked to your mom about it. Personally, I would involve her in the decision who cleans and when/how the bathroom is to be cleaned.

    On another note, for any kind of job performance evaluation, that the person doesn't steal or damage things is a prequesite but not a ringing endorsement.

    Honu3421 thanked nosoccermom
  • Yayagal
    6 years ago

    Honu, I give you credit for coming here and being humble about our replies. You're a good daughter to be able to end the issue with laughter. Happy endings. (sigh).

    Honu3421 thanked Yayagal
  • Honu3421
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Nosoccermom: DM likes our cleaning lady and has no problems with her (or me) cleaning. She was trying to protect me from taking on extra work on her account. And you are absolutely right on the job performance issue. Thank you.

    Yayagal: Thank you for your kind words of support.

    I must say, I fear I left an impression with all of you of mold, dust bunnies, cobwebs and maybe even goblins in the attic. Yikes, the cleaning really isn't as bad as it must have sounded to you all. There went my reputation! LOL.

    I think the issue was more of do I battle DM or acquiesce. And the takeaway was to find a workaround. So simple. Always harder to do in the moment.

  • User
    6 years ago
    last modified: 6 years ago

    Honu, I haven’t read all the responses and am just throwing this out there as a thought or consideration. A lot of elderly people are very private about their health and will even hide things from their family for a variety of reasons. When my mother had colon cancer, she was embarrassed by some of the issues it caused and didn’t want us around very much or to help care for her. Other seniors don’t want to “bother” their family or be a burden. Or maybe she has “things” that she’s not comfortable letting others see or know about.

    I think it’s important for the bathroom to be cleaned but it’s not something you should sneak in to do. That’s only going to cause trust issues and really isn’t respecting her privacy. I would have a sit down with her and tell her that you’ll be accessing to clean and when you will be doing it so she can remove whatever she has that’s private before you do.

    Honu3421 thanked User
  • Honu3421
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    Lukkiirish, Yes, I think that was part of it, along with just protecting me in general from added responsibilities. And yes, big need for privacy. I think more so with me than with non relatives. We were able to work this through and I think we have a good understanding. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

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