How do I talk to my father about the mess he makes in the bathroom when he urinates?

Sue asked...

I am a caregiver to my father. He is still able to get around good but can no longer drive. I fix his meals, keep his house clean, laundry, etc. and take him for a drive several days a week. One of the frustrating things I have to deal with is cleaning up after him when he goes to the bathroom to urinate. He often does not hit the toilet. I have not talked with him about it but it is getting to be a problem. It is hard for a daughter to discuss such matters with her father. Any advise would be very much appreciated.

Expert Answer

This is a frustrating problem, and one that's understandably difficult for a daughter to talk about with her dad. First of all, I'd talk to your father's doctor about the situation, and consider a check-up. There could be medical reasons your dad is missing the toilet more, such as vision problems; stiff finger joints or arthritis; balance problems, or dementia. It's important to get a health professional's assessment to find the best solution. He may need glasses or stronger glasses, medicine for arthritis, or a standing/walking aide like a walker. It may be time for him to start sitting on the toilet to urinate. Ask your dad's doctor to initiate the discussion with him. This way, your dad will be less surprised if you bring it up.

When you do talk to your dad, try to be direct and matter of fact. Chances are he's feeling as uncomfortable as you are. Try not to blame him, as it's likely his messiness isn't deliberate. This will require patience, as you're the one having to clean up the mess. Try to look at it in the same vein as talking to your parent about messy eating or dressing, similar body care issues affected by aging. It's hard not to sound patronizing when dealing with these things, but keeping the conversation simple and straightforward helps. State the problem; the possible causes (or known cause if this has been determined by a doctor); and the suggested solutions.

Finally, can you ask your dad to help with the clean-up after he uses the bathroom? Maybe lay out a pile of towels near the toilet. This might make him feel better, too. And, if you're still uncomfortable with all of this, is there a male friend or family member who can talk to your dad?

Good luck. You're not alone with this concern.