How do we control Dad's grunting and strange bathroom habits?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My 81-year old father has Alzheimer's. He has developed an annoying habit of grunting and groaning. It is constant and with his hearing being so bad, he is totally unaware that he is doing it. He sounds like he's on his last breath and it is annoying. I've thought about replenishing his cough drop supply, but I wouldn't want him to choke. He is fully capable of feeding himself. What do you suggest?

Also, he also has developed an art of going to the bathroom and instead of putting the toilet paper in the commode, he puts it in the trash can. My mother dutifully takes the trash out every time he does his business. How can we break him of this? I've suggested taking the trash can out of the bathroom, but other times he leaves his used toilet paper on the sink. This same man shaves several times a day, mows the lawn for hours as the leaves continue to fall, but getting him in the shower once a week is a chore.

Any help is appreciated. I've printed lots of tips from this website, but I didn't see anything about grunting noises or strange bathroom habits.

Expert Answer

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

You and your mother are going to need a lot of patience with these problems. He has a dementing illness that is incurable and is effecting his brain. His short term memory is severely effected. He is unable to remember what you are telling him about his bathroom habits. It appears that keeping the trash can in the bathroom and emptying it after he has used the bathroom is the best idea for his situation.

As for the grunting and groaning, has he been evaluated for pain? Might he be uncomfortable? Call his physician to see if giving him a regular dose of some over-the-counter pain medication would be safe. If it is, give him the medication on a regular basis for a week to see if their is any change in this habit.

If he can still eat and is not in any danger of chocking, something soft and sweet to suck on may be helpful. If he enjoys music, earphones playing his favorite music might be helpful.

Let us know if any of these suggestions work as I'm sure others are facing similar concerns.

Best of luck!