FAQ: How Do I Keep My Loved One From Falling on His Way to the Bathroom at Night?

12 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

How do I keep my loved one from falling on his way to the bathroom at night?

Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is the author of a popular blog and podcast at BetterHealthWhileAging.net. She is also a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics.

There's no way to guarantee that your loved one won't fall on the way to the bathroom at night, but there are steps you can take to reduce the chance of a fall:

  • Try to reduce the need to go at night.

    • Ask the doctor to evaluate your loved one for causes of increased urination at night. For example, in older men, an enlarged prostate is a common cause of needing to go at night. Treatment of an underlying medical condition may result in fewer nighttime trips to the bathroom.

    • Consider keeping fluid intake to a minimum after dinner. Avoiding caffeine and alcohol can also help.

    • Ask the doctor to help you identify medications that increase urination (such as diuretics for high blood pressure). If your loved one needs to take these drugs, ask about scheduling the dosing earlier in the day.

  • Avoid medications that impair balance and/or cloud thinking.

    • These include virtually all sleeping pills and tranquilizers, including over-the-counter (OTC) drugs such as diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl), which is often included in the night-time versions of common OTC painkillers.

    • Ask the doctor to help you identify other medications that increase fall risk. You should especially ask about medications for blood pressure, depression, itching, pain, or overactive bladder. You should also ask about antipsychotics, which are often prescribed to people with dementia.

    • Once the doctor has helped you identify medications that increase fall risk, you can discuss whether each medication is absolutely necessary or whether a lower dose might be effective.

  • Try to reduce the distance traveled at night.

    • For men, consider placing a urinal at the bedside. For women, consider a bedside commode. (Bear in mind that someone with dementia may forget to use these, however.)
  • If your loved one still has to get up at night to urinate, try to make the journey as safe as possible.

    • Keep the path to the bathroom lit at night.

    • Remove clutter from the path from bed to bathroom.

    • Provide assistance and supervision, if possible.

Remember that although there are many ways to reduce the chance of falling, it's not usually possible to guarantee that a person won't fall at all. When it comes to falls and dementia, families often end up facing difficult trade-offs between safety and independence. Still, asking the doctor to help you with the steps above should help lessen the chance of a bad fall.

Community Answers

Cioci answered...

Use a spill proof urinal!

Billy hood answered...

Have the person wear padded underwear such as Depends

Cioci answered...

keep the spill proof urinal at the bedside with a small bath mat underneath. My husband can use the urinal by himself. Works great for us!

Xmasbaby answered...

I have a commode by the bedside for my mom and replaced the wool rug with a commercial grade mat that can be taken outside and hosed down if necessary. Made my life a little easier.

Dekay4 answered...

I added a bicycle headlamp to my fathers walker. He didn't have to light up the house, no more leaving lights on or night lights, to make it to the bathroom.

Bentley1 answered...

we put railing along the hallway from the bedroom to the bathroom, my husband forgets to use his walker all the time. The railing at least give him something to hang onto.

Gas doc answered...

Mybe you should try to have an indwelling catheter with a bag put in.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Oh Gas Doc thank you for the idea but he would pull it out even if it hurt or wake me up over and over wondering why that thing was there. He does not think he is incontinent and actually seems to love going pee, just like a little boy would. By the way, dad is in a brand new veterans home for 10 days. This is a service offered to veterans to give respite to care givers. HOWEVER, the place is so so good, clean, and patients are so well engaged and cared for that when the time comes I am giving serious consideration to this home. This year the federal government pulled the funding for this program but they are trying hard to get it back, what a lifesaver this program is! Today I bought a rubber bottomed entry rug that lies flat to put next to his bed. I figure I can hose that down to help protect the carpet.
thanks you guys, annie

Ivon cronje answered...

I had a fatal fall in my bathroom, lights were off and i must have slipt and hit the granide. We're 5 min away from a well known hospital, my husband and son took me emmediatly, I had a opration of 3 hours draining blood from my brain. I was then 5 weeks in a deep coma with a 5% chance of recovery.People, family, friends start praying and against all odds I totaly recovered and the is no meds or any other side-effecks. The bad of it all, I was in ICU for 2 months, after that still in a private room to start eating, walking ,moving just my vingers. I felt so helpless and depressed. I have been a keen cycler and is just spinning now in gym. ALL I WANT TO SAY: A bathroom is as dangorous as a kitchen. Rather leave a light on, or learn to put it on! There was no water on my floor but I remember using creams for my face anfd legs! One drop - life-changing!

Days answered...

I use a magnetic bed alarm attachment on my mother and sleep in the same room...if she raises up too far it awakens me and then i help her to use the bathroom....she has a toilet chair beside the bed that she has become accustomed to...I also use depends for her...always before she goes to bed I put her on the toilet or toilet chair so she can urinate...then i change her depends.............if she tries to get up in the night the alarm awakes me so i can try to keep her from falling...

Starfaced answered...

Buy several lights that go on in the dark when there is movement. This one comes on when my 96 year old dad merely sits up, and it stays on for the ten feet path to the bathroom. Have them strategically located and it's almost like the light summons him to make the next steps to the living room to his chair, the lights pop on as he approaches and the next light too, all along the path. The bathroom ritual is something that should be in place long before it is necessary. A convienent commode chair, a well located accessible rest room, we should have these things in place and have the older person comfortable in the use much earlier than when there is critical need. Never think of these things that I don't wonder what people did when all there was was outdoor plumbing.....they handled it somehow.