My Alzheimer's father stays on the toilet all the time for fear of soiling himself!

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 08, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My Dad is 87. I help my Mom care for him in their home. My Dad has alzheimer's and has had small strokes. He has hearing loss and is legally blind. My question is... How can I keep my Dad from spending so much time on the toilet. He is determined to stay on there because he is afraid of having an accident. He even refuses to release gas unless he is on the toilet. He has a small sore on his behind from sitting so long. We purchased a padded seat and because he wipes so much we had to remove all but a few squares of toilet paper. I realize this is a strange situation but is very real and frustrating. I am grateful for any information on the subject. Thanks

Expert Answers

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

Quite an issue. This happens often with Alzheimer patients who run to the bathroom every three minutes with a sense of urgency, get there, forgot why they went and then go back three minutes later. Or, like your dad, go and stay forever until someone entices them off the toilet. I have had some situations where spouse caregivers had to call 911 to get their spouse off of the toilet because they were stuck! You are right that it is a dangerous situation in terms of skin integrity.

You do have some options. Firstly, you could put a lock on the bathroom door and tell your dad they are fixing the pipes. You could put a sign on the bathroom door that says "Out of Order". This, of course, would only work if his dementia is at a moderate or later stage; you could have to get a commode placed in a private spot for him to use in emergencies. You could remove all the toilet paper to address his overuse. You could begin using incontinence wear (i.e Depends pullups) to help his anxiety that he will have an accident. What works best is probably identifying a distraction- an activity in or out of the house- that might redirect him from toileting. Might a sweet entice him? music? a story? a puzzle?

You and your mom need to believe that this is a passing phase in your dad's dementia and will cease with the progression.

Community Answers

Cherlann answered...

I had this problem with my husband but not as serious. He didn't STAY in the bathroom but worried a lot about soiling himself and has had problems with sudden urges. He is handicapped and can't walk very fast so we had several accidents till I convinced him that the Depends pullups would keep us from cleaning floors, washing clothes, etc if he did have an "accident". He agreed to try it and one day while I was at work he DID have an accident but had the Depends on and had no problem to clean up by himself. When I got home from work he was SO proud of himself that he could handle the situation by himself and had no mess to clean--just had to change the Depends. He remarked to me--"That was a good idea! I like the Depends so I don't have to worry" Now he wears one every day and has an occassional accident but it is no longer a problem! I had tried to have him wear the Depends several months ago when the accidents started but he flatly refused to try back then--they change mind and attitude sometimes--he realized that he was helping ME by wearing them because I didn't have a mess to clean up anymore.