• All threads and posts regarding Coronavirus COVID-19 can now be found in our new area specifically for Coronavirus COVID-19 discussion.

    You can directly access this area >here<.

Catheter problems


Registered User
Nov 15, 2015
This is my first post here, so "Hello".

My Mum was diagnosed with dementia a few months ago, although she'd been showing signs of it for 2-3 years. Eight years ago she had a stroke, which left her with very poor short term memory function. Although she was relatively frail, she regained most of her physical health, but the memory issues remained and, over time, got worse. My Dad coped with the situation really well - taking on more and more tasks as Mum forgot or neglected them - but a few months ago, he took her to the GP and she was referred to the local Memory Clinic, where dementia was confirmed.

A week or two after the dementia diagnosis, Mum was out walking the dog and had another stroke. She fell and shattered her arm and also suffered various injuries to her head and face. Two months down the line, her arm has been reconstructed and is on the mend, and her brain injury is no longer threatening, but she is still in hospital and showing clear signs of dementia that weren't present before the stroke.

Getting to the point, one of the many issues we're having is getting Mum to relieve herself into a catheter. She simply can't grasp the concept and, if we (or the hospital staff) explain it to her, she seems to take it in, but forgets what we've said within seconds and carries on asking to go to the toilet. She thinks she'll wet herself, so sits there trying to hold it in and is clearly in some discomfort.

Does anyone have any similar experience and any ideas on how to address this problem?


Registered User
May 21, 2014
Why did the doctor think she needed a catheter? Is she physically unable to go to the toilet? Even so, catheters and dementia don't mix too well. Apart from an increased risk of infection, you simply cannot logically explain things to someone with dementia, nor will their memory contain it. So try your best to get her to a toilet. I've heard so many times that people come out of hospital suddenly being incontinent when they weren't before. This seems to explain why.


Registered User
Jan 14, 2010
East Kent
I'm wondering if the catheter may not be inserted properly.
The reason I say this is.
I have been catheterised twice. The first time was several years ago and at times I was well aware of it and it felt uncomfortable, I did mention it.
The second time was in June and oh what a difference :).

I really hope your Mum was not catheterised just for the staffs convenience.


Registered User
Jul 22, 2013
East Yorkshire
My dad has had a catheter for over a year now and he still says he wants to go to the toilet. We just explain that he's already going and remind him of the bag. I know his plumbing is different to a lady so I may be giving you useless advice, but often when he feels the urge to go, we check there are no kinks in the tube and make sure the bag isn't full causing urine to back up into the bladder. He used to frequently ask what the tube down his leg was for but he seems used to it now. I suppose I should ask if your mum is on a permanent catheter? If she is, find out if it's really necessary as dad is plagued by water infections and they are very difficult to shift. Would a commode be of any help? We are getting one for dad, provided through his local social services.


Registered User
Jul 20, 2011
I would also question why she has a catheter. I had to insist that the catheter was removed from my Mum, she hated it and they only had it in because they didn't want the hassle of helping her to the toilet - I gave them a piece of my mind but I still had to spend a lot of time at the hospital walking her to get her mobility back and helping her to the toilet. I know they are supposedly short staffed but they spend an awful lot of time chatting around the nurses station!!!


Registered User
Nov 15, 2015
Thank you all for the comments and suggestions.

At the moment, Mum isn't walking or even standing up (although there is apparently no impairment preventing this). She needs a full hoist and two people to get her onto a bedpan or commode, or to be moved between the chair and bed. The physiotherapists at the hospital have been trying to get her to stand up, but without much success. If she could walk to the toilet with assistance, I think she would be fine without a catheter, but until she's more mobile, I think it is needed. Dad certainly couldn't cope with her at home as she is.

It's looking like it will be a very long haul getting her walking, if that ever happens, which is why getting her to understand the catheter in the meantime is a concern. It may be that it's physically uncomfortable or not fitted properly (we can check that), but I think it's more psychological, given the comments she makes. It definitely isn't because the bag is full; recently, it's been empty and she's clearly "holding it in" until she's put onto a bedpan/commode.

For the first couple of months after the stroke/fall, she was on restricted fluids because of a dangerously low sodium level, but she is now being encouraged to drink more fluids. I wonder if the extra fluid intake is delivering a different sensation from the catheter, which is confusing her? Does one actually feel an overly-full bladder and have to consciously "let it go"?