Seeking Advice on Autistic Adult Daughter and Her Hygiene

Updated on September 06, 2017
M.H. asks from Fort Wayne, IN
7 answers

My autistic daughter is 32 and her hygiene could use some major improvements. She lives in her own place because of disability assistance. Whenever I go to visit each week its apparent she hasn't bathed because she's wearing the same clothes and she hasn't brushed her teeth either because her breath smells. It seems unless I physically bathe her, get her dressed, and brush her teeth it otherwise doesn't happen. I can yell at her for it but at that does is just make her mad and her ignore me. The dentist has yelled at her more times that I can remember because of her poor oral habits in loosing several teeth from cavities. I can't keep doing this since I'm getting close to retirement and hope someone can offer advice.

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answers from Boston on

I have a cousin with a major disability (personality disorder, OCD, etc.) and he is unable to live alone for just this reason. He needs more supervision or he'll be in his pajamas all day and never get in the shower because of some fear that someone else used a shower and he'll get some disease. He has to be in a supervised setting.

I agree with you that the yelling doesn't work. I'd tell the dentist that too. Who is footing the bill for all of this? I'd look into a supervised setting through the Dept. of Mental Health or get some help from her physician and/or a disability rights/services organization where you live.

Your daughter is not managing well and is not suited to independent living. She cannot bathe, dress, brush or launder her clothes. She needs more direction, and not from you. You're looking at hygiene but do you even know if she's eating properly? She may need more care than you think. Get a social worker in to evaluate the situation and make recommendations.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I have a child with autism that functions at an exceedingly high level(at 14, you wouldn't know if I didn't tell you). I am very close with several families with young/middle adults with autism. I say this to point out i am very familiar with a wide range of individuals with autism.

In my opinion, your daughter clearly shouldn't be on her own. Hygiene is a VERY basic level of self care, and if she's unable to do that - at minimum she needs you or a personal aide of some sort to stop by DAILY. But it sounds more like she needs to be back at home, in a group home, or some sort of care facility.

Good luck and hope you are able to arrange the care she needs asap.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I don't know what services are available in your state, but in our state, if a disabled person cannot meet the ADL (activities of daily living) threshold, they either qualify for a PCA (personal care attendant) to come to their home and "assist" with these ADL's or they can apply for a waiver to move into a group home. Our son receives a PCA because he will only practice hygiene if basically someone "makes him".

I would reach out to the county she lives in's MH or DD at HSD and have them help you start the paperwork. If for no other reason, think about what would happen if/when you are gone . . . That's why we are moving our son into a group home in a few years. Yes, we could go over daily and basically "babysit" him in an independent living situation, along with a PCA coming daily, but what happens when we can't do it anymore?

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You are a very strong mom for continuing to care for her so well each week! And, it is great that she can "financially afford" to live alone. But it sounds like she is not really ready to live alone.

What is the history here - did you have reasons to believe that she was capable of doing everything by herself before she moved into this living situation? Does she have a job, where other people are around her (and possibly "smell her") on a daily basis?

If she is going to continue to live alone, it seems like some money needs to be spent on hiring an "assistant" for her, to help with exactly what you describe.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

If she's not taking care of herself, then she's not succeeding at living independently.
Either she needs to live with you or in a group home where a social worker or aide can check in on her and help/remind her to do what is necessary.
Try to find some help for her.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I don't know if rewards (like taking her out for a nice coffee/treat) would work - in order to go, she needs to be presentable? that kind of thing? I wouldn't think yelling would work (that doesn't work for anyone ... let alone an Autistic person I wouldn't imagine). Does she FaceTime/skype - so that mid week you could see if she's bathed/taken care of teeth, she gets rewarded when you see her? I wouldn't make them huge rewards, but be encouraging. I don't have an autistic child so maybe that wouldn't work - not sure.

Added: now that I read the other moms' answers, I realize that yes, basic care includes grooming, and if she's not up for that, it makes me think (agree) that she needs a different arrangement. Is she looking after her other needs - like eating properly etc? Maybe have someone help you with your daughter's particular situation - there may be a much better fit for her (accommodations, etc.)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You need to look at the bigger picture. She may not be safe living alone. If she isn't able to judge when to bathe and brush teeth, how do you know she isn't opening her door to strangers, leaving the house to go visit people with bad intentions, eating properly, not leaving the stove on, etc. Sounds like she needs to be living with some in-house supervision. Find a social worker that can help you with this situation. If she goes into a group home, make unscheduled visits, get a nanny camera and do all kinds of background checks. I have heard some awful things about these situations.

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