How can I handle my father-in-law who urinates in inappropriate places?

When a loved one has Alzheimer’s, impaired judgment makes it increasingly difficult to redirect one’s urge to urinate in appropriate places. Since the disease prevents your father-in-law from understanding he is doing something improper, or from learning not to continue doing it, it is important to redirect him to the toilet and also start using incontinence products.

Monitor the liquid intake of your father-in-law and note how long after that he has the urge to urinate, establishing his natural pattern. Anticipating his schedule can help reduce accidents and his practice of urinating in inappropriate places.

When talking with him about going to the toilet, use short, simple instructions and words that are familiar to him. Try not to rush him, and do not act anxious yourself, as he, too, could become anxious. Watch for nonverbal clues that he needs to void, such as pacing, pulling at clothes, agitation or having a flushed face.

Visual clues help him locate the bathroom. Attach a photo of a toilet or put the words “BATHROOM” on the doors. Make sure the bathroom and pathways to the bathroom are well-lit. Try using a toilet seat that contrasts the color of the floor. A white floor and a white toilet are difficult to distinguish.

Consider safety factors in the bathroom area, such as rugs that could cause your father-in-law to lose his balance or fall. Is the toilet raised, and are there grab bars next to it for extra security? Additionally, is your father-in-law dressed in clothing that can easily be taken off, i.e., Velcro closures for zippers and elastic waistbands on his pants?

Think about what could be triggering your father-in-law’s urinating in inappropriate places. Has he experienced a recent transition, traumatic event or loss? Has his environment changed? Try to remove or relocate objects that could cause confusion and be mistaken for a toilet, such as trash cans, potted plants, dog bowls, etc. Lastly, there could be a medical reason for your father-in-law’s behavior. He could be suffering from a urinary tract infection or experiencing prostate problems. Talk with your physician about this behavior to rule out any medical issues.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494,, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.