Urine infection in the elderly

What a day 23rd December was and I don’t really know where to begin; I feel I should write down, but already my mind is starting to blank it.

Mum got up shortly after I finished the previous day’s blog and it was immediately apparent that her demeanour hadn’t changed after her eventual sleep. Not only that, she was really smelly, as she didn’t appear to have had a bath at day-care over the previous couple of weeks. I tried to bathe her, but she has a bath seat, which means that little of her body is covered with water even when the bath is full to the brim. I decided it was time for drastic action, removed the seat and helped her into the warm foamy water. She appeared to enjoy it, but just then the phone rang and it was the new social worker returning my call. He wanted to come and do an assessment, so I ran downstairs for the calendar and rushed back up again with the other phone, so that I could keep an eye on Mum in the bath.

I washed mum’s hair and body and showered her off. Everything was going swimmingly until I tried to get her out. She’s quite hefty and couldn’t turn around to get onto her knees in order to stand up. I tied lifting her but it was impossible. With my DIY I have developed some noticeable biceps, but I’m really small, so don’t have the wherewithal to actually lift her high enough. I could have called for help, but fearing it would be a long time coming, I devised another plan. I put the seat back into the bath and managed, with her help, to lift her onto it. Then I got the top seat (the ‘plank’ that fit’s across the top of the bath) and managed to hoist her onto that. She wouldn’t take my advice to swing her legs over the bath from that seated position and insisted on trying to stand up and climbing out by her own means, this resulted in her scraping the thin skin of her shin till it started to bleed – profusely – and I had to get a plaster on it ASAP.

During all this fiasco she was reasonably cooperative, but after her breakfast it all started to kick off. She became really nasty and argumentative – and even more confused than normal. I started to think ‘this is it – the dementia /Alzheimer’s has moved on to a different phase’ and I wondered just how long I would be able to keep her at home.

I had to go out at some point to collect Mum’s repeat prescription from the surgery and do a bit of shopping. I also waned to go round to Paul’s aunt to deliver her Christmas card and gift. The road was like a skating rink, but it’s a long walk even in the best of conditions. I had to dig the car out, but before doing so I tried clear the snow and ice from the disabled parking bay, as I could hardly grumble at anyone parked in during my absence, if they couldn’t even see the markings.

I put that off till after lunch and it was then that I become aware that all was not right with mum. She kept leaping up to fiddle with things, didn’t want her lunch and was very slightly sick. Alarm bells started ringing – this was not the dementia – it was a urine infection – all adding up. I know it isn’t normal to issue antibiotics without seeing the patient, but desperate times call for desperate measures and so I called the surgery.

They needed a urine sample, but there was no way I could get one from Mum in her state of mind – and anyway – we had been advised not to venture out (they didn’t know that I needed to collect her regular prescription) – I am, after all, an old lady.  ‘The doctor usually needs to see the patient before giving antibiotics’. ‘I knew that, but even if he saw her it was highly unlikely she would provide a sample.’ With the roads and pavements so icy and being highly unlikely to find parking outside of the surgery, we would have to walk long distances, so it would have been totally irresponsible of me to walk my mother, but they didn’t offer a home visit (in fact, from that surgery I have never had a home visit). I said, ‘okay, if her condition worsens over Christmas she will just have to go to hospital.’ To which the receptionist replied, ‘Yes.’

Aunt Edna was pleased to see me and she hadn’t ventured out that morning, so after we had an emotional chat about Paul, I drove her around to the post office to collect her pension and to the paper shop. I asked if she needed anything from Spar, but she declined, saying her son would probably call and do her shopping for her.

I collected the prescription from the surgery and drove to the pharmacy, calling briefly at the Co-op, as I didn’t want to be away from mother too long. When I returned a feeling of foreboding swept over me. I realised Mother was in the bathroom and flew upstairs to find her on her hands and knees, sweeping the floor around the toilet with my toothbrush, inter-dental brush and a pen! The shock/horror didn’t end there as beyond her I could see her slippers poking out of the loo and upon further investigation I fished out her stockings and knickers. In the wash basin she had run water, in which she had put her teeth, all my make-up, nail scissors and more or less everything from the bathroom window – and in the bath was a couple of inches of water containing the bath mats and towels! The whole place looked like a disaster area, but still worse to come. Later in the evening I went to investigate after she was taking an inordinately long time in the bathroom. Her hands were covered in excrement, which she was contentedly wiping all over the wall and shelf!

I have been a carer for first my dad (since 1988) and latterly my mum as well. Without doubt, caring for someone with mental problems is the most difficult – and my dad suffered from dementia towards the end of his life. It is no comfort to realise I have the genes from both sides!


Published by


Born in Liverpool at the end of WW2, but raised in Skelmersdale. I first studied art in Southport from 1960-63 and worked in graphic design till I married. In December 1969 I moved to Zambia with my husband and two young children. There I taught art in the local girls school, illustrated for the National Correspondence College and did all sorts of other artwork, paid and unpaid. In 1978 I divorced and remarried in the summer of 1980. In 1985 I became ill and the following year cancer was diagnosed. There was no treatment available in Zambia and so I had to go to the UK. After recovering from a radium needle implant I went back to Zambia, but 18 months later the cancer recurred and it was off to the UK again for radical surgery. This time I realised I must stay in the UK where treatment was available, so I never returned to Zambia nor my husband. A few months later I applied for a degree course, but two years later the disease metastasised and I spent most of my final year in and out of hospital. It’s been a long hard road, but I’m still plodding on and it is now 24 years since my last cancer treatment. Because of my experience of cancer and surviving against the odds, I try and help others cope with their devastating diagnosis and prognosis.

2 thoughts on “Urine infection in the elderly”

  1. Hi Willo,

    Your recounting of events related to your mother brings back memories! I was a fulltime caregiver to my mother with dementia for almost two and a half years, in her home. It was an emotionally difficult time in my life. One year ago she moved into a facility, and so that staff could manage her behaviours she was prescribed risperidone. Today, at 91, my mother is more calm than she has been for years. I now spend about two hours a day with her, but these hours are usually enjoyable, mainly because her mind is more relaxed.

    God bless you for honoring your mother with loving home care!

    Jan Heinen


    1. Hello Jan

      Thank you so much for your comment. As you can see from the time lapse of the event and finally submitting the blog, I was rather apprehensive about publishing it. Finally last night I decided to go ahead, so I was grateful for your response. Like your mother, mine is 91; her 92nd birthday next week. Things are really getting quite difficult, so writing it down and sharing it is quite cathartic, but I do wonder how long I can continue being a carer. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture and my mum has no concept of time, so spends much of the night pacing around, which of course means that I am up too. I have no siblings, so nobody to share the caring with me, making your input even more appreciated.

      Thanks once again.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s