My Mum has gallstones


Registered User
Apr 18, 2008
Hello Everyone

I am a new member. I have an 81 year old mother who is in residential care because of her vascular dementia. She has absolutely no memory span and only just about recognises me and my sister when we visit. She does not know where she is, is incontinent and is anxious and confused most of the time.

All this is very depressing and distressing for my sister and I but we now have another problem. She has been diagnosed with gallstones which are causing her terrible pain ever afternoon. We have taken her to a consultant who says she needs surgery but the fact of her age and as she has had a stroke (the cause of her dementia), there is a strong chance that she will not survive the surgery. He says he is willing to operate but the decision has to be ours.

Question then; What do we do? Do we leave her in pain, the gallstones are not life threatening, or do we put her through the surgery bearing in mind that she is very confused and anxious whenever she has to leave the home.


Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
Hello Suzie,

Pain from gallstones is severe so your mother does need some relief.

I don`t know whether or not the link below will help, but it does offer some alternative suggestions which you may wish to disccuss with your mother`s doctor.

My grandmother had gall bladder dysfunction which didn`t get so bad that it produced gallstones. A fat free diet really helped, but I don`t know if it will help when the stones have been formed. Perhaps something else you could ask the doctor.


Registered User
Nov 28, 2005
The pain from gallstones is awful - my own experience :eek:.

With young children I was unable to have the op immediately. I managed to avoid some of the pain by sticking to a rice and vegetable diet ONLY. Very hard but I was reasonably fit and able.

I suggest you discuss this with your Mother's GP - it will still be your decision and whatever it will be the right one. It helps though to discuss this with others.

If it were me with gallstone pain, with dementia and at 81 - I would want to take the risk.

I am sorry you have to make such a very difficult decision.


Registered User
Jan 30, 2009
I have had gallstones years ago, the pain was excruciating.

Based on that experience I am prepared to stick my neck out and say go for the surgery, but you know your mum best.

It is also likely that a surgeon won't do an operation if they really think it will kill someone because of their statistics, but maybe I am being cynical there.

Hope your mum has some top class pain killers, poor lady.

Pippa x

Sue J

Registered User
Dec 9, 2009
Hi Suzie

Sorry to hear your Mum is suffering with gallstones in addition to dementia. Has the surgeon discussed the op with you? I know this is often done by keyhole surgery, of course still risks involved. You say your Mum has the pain in the afternoons have the home modified her diet at all to low fat to reduce any aggravation and to see what difference it makes?

No surgeon knows if someone will survive any surgery they can only advise on past experience, statistics and an assessment of your Mum's health prior and they have to make you aware of a possible outcome but there are still many people alive today who could tell stories of not being expected to survive surgery. Very difficult for you and your sister, could you visit the surgical ward to meet some of the staff and discuss your concerns re. your Mum's dementia and surgery - it may help you in your decision making.

I hope you are able to find some relief for her and whatever you decide you know you have done so in her best interests.

Best wishes
Sue J


Registered User
Oct 12, 2009
NW England
Hi Suzie

I don't want to cause you any further problems, but gallstones can lead to pancreatitis, which is extremely painful - I speak from personal experience back in the 90s.



Registered User
Jan 5, 2011
I have had gallstones for many years, I was hospitalised when one large one moved and caused a blockage and I couldn't even keep water down, (this was delt with) but they wouldn't operate to remove the gallbladder as I was over weight:mad::D

My point is, that I still have the stones but due to a low fat diet for the past 20yrs I have not had any symptoms. Definitely speak to the CH about her diet. And hopefully she will not need surgery.