How do we help my father, with Lewy Body Dementia, find the bathroom at night?

2 answers | Last updated: Mar 28, 2016
Rhonda porter ranch, ca asked...

My father has Lewy Body Dementia and can't find the bathroom at night, even though we leave the light on. Any ideas on how to guide him to the toilet?

Expert Answers

Beth Spencer is a social worker in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with more than 25 years of experience with families who have a member with dementia. She is coauthor of Understanding Difficult Behaviors and Moving a Relative with Memory Loss: A Family Caregiver's Guide. She directs Silver Club, early-stage and adult day programs serving individuals with Alzheimer's and related illnesses.

Many people reach a point in their dementia where they are no longer capable of finding their way around. This is often worse at night, probably because of darkness and shadows, and the additional confusion that comes with sleep.

Your father may have reached a point where he will need assistance getting to the bathroom at night. However, there are a couple of environmental things you could try first. You could try some environmental cues. Large posters that have one word and an arrow on them could point the way. Choose the word he uses, such as toilet or bathroom, or a photo of the commode with an arrow. If it's not far or complicated, a couple of posters might guide him, especially if you practice it during the day.

Keeping a portable commode next to the bed sometimes solves this problem. If he wakes up and sees the commode right there, he doesn't have to go searching for it. It may take some training and reassurance to get him to feel comfortable using it though. Modern Americans aren't used to having toilets next to our beds!

SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You

Community Answers

Cuckoo answered...

If you have hardwood floors, this tip is easier, but it might be adapted to carpet: With Scotch packaging tape (clear kind) at intervals, tape a wide (at least an inch wide) brightly colored strip of ribbon (we had a roll of orange colored tape (not sticky) on the floor leading to the bathroom from where the person usually sits. When they indicate they need to go to the bathroom, tell them to follow the (whatever color) tape on the floor to their bathroom.

This has mostly eliminated having to get up each time and walk mother to the bathroom. However, if the bathroom door is closed (especially if it is closed and the light was left on) she gets to the door and thinks someone is in there so she turns around and comes back to where I am sitting. (Haven't figured out how to handle that one yet!)