Is my wife's frequent use of the bathroom at night caused by her Alzheimer's?

2 answers | Last updated: Sep 28, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

my wife is getting up many, many times during the night to go to the bathroom to urinate and have bowel movements. This is a fairly new issue. She wakes me up to tell me she has to go to bathroom. She is in early moderate stage of Alzheimer's. Is this normal? What could be causing this?Or is it just part of the disease?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Reading your question, it is true that there are some Alzheimer's patients who will go to the bathroom frequently, especially in the middle stages of the disease. This can happen at night especially, as some patients develop a "day-night" reversal, where they will be more alert at night. She may just be getting up to urinate or move her bowels more at night due to already being more awake, so she is more aware of the need to go since she is already not sleeping well.

Since this is a new behavior though, I would let her healthcare provider know this is happening. If she just started new medications, sometimes they can increase nighttime agitation or frequency of urination. She may have a urinary tract infection, so that needs to be looked into. Also, I just want to mention that Aricept/Exelon/Razadyne can all cause abdominal discomfort and diarrhea, so if one of these medications were recently started or increased, this could definitely cause some of this issue. They can also cause some patients to not empty their bladders well, so I would have this checked out as well. Hope this was helpful.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

My mother also would go to the bathroom frequently, during the day also. It just about drove us crazy. I often wondered if subconsciously she was afraid of "having an accident", or if she just didn't remember that she had just gone. It is very trying, especially at night, when you don't want her up while you're trying to sleep. My only suggestion is to limit fluids in the evening, and perhaps get some help with the sleeping issue.