We’ve always admired the way David Baddiel speaks openly and honestly about his dad Colin’s dementia journey. So when he went on Twitter recently to ask for a bit of advice, we were curious to know what might happen.

David wrote:

“So my dad’s in hospital. Urinary infection. This is a regular occurrence (he has a permanent catheter). It’s extremely debilitating and seems to lead to a worsening of the dementia. It seems amazing that nothing can be done to prevent it.

He has live-in 24-hour care. But it still flares up suddenly and because of his dementia he isn’t able to convey what’s happening until the physical symptoms appear.

He’s permanently on antibiotics, but without fail, these seem to lose any ability to resist infection after a short time. I don’t know if anyone out there has relatives in the same situation and have any suggestions?”

It didn’t take long for the twitter community to start rallying round. Within minutes sympathy, support and advice came flooding in.

Here’s what people said:

1 – Is it the right sort of catheter?
‘My dad had a suprapubic catheter, his UTI’s decreased after using silver colloidal spray to clean around the catheter entry site. Also blockages were a big issue but these were really reduced when the catheter type was changed to an open ended type (within bladder). Good luck

What is a suprapubic catheter? It’s a catheter that empties the bladder through an incision in the belly rather than a tube in the urethra (where urine naturally comes from)

2 – What about a silver coated catheter?
‘Some evidence indicates that silver coated catheters can prevent infection. I work for the NHS and have heard that these catheters can help, studies have shown a decrease between 30-70 percent.’

What is a silver coated catheter? It’s a catheter with a silver alloy-coating. This type of catheter was also discussed recently on BBC Radio 2s Jeremy Vine Show.

3 – Is a catheter really necessary?
‘My Ma was a specialist incontinence nurse. Her professional opinion: Infection is inevitable with a permanent catheter and infection will make dementia worse. If catheter is not for urinary retention it should be removed. ‘

‘We found with my late father that catheterisation seems to be the default solution with resulting increase in pain/ infection/dementia related delirium. We got much better quality of life by managing the consequences of incontinence with absorbent pads.’

4 – Have you tried a supplement?
Many people suggested cranberry juice and cranberry tablets might help (although, as some pointed out the research on cranberry is inconclusive). However, one supplement in particular called D-Mannose received several recommendations – several people said they swore by it, including these two:

‘Some specialists are now prescribing D-Mannose as it coats the bladder which stops the bacteria from sticking to bladder lining – a natural alternative.’

‘These work for a lot of people but they’re not (yet) widely known about. Definitely worth giving a go especially when antibiotics stop working. I was cynical at first, but they worked for my father.’

5 – What about turmeric?
‘It’s not scientifically proven, but high doses of turmeric powder have anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, I don’t think there’s any harm that can come from it at the very least,’ someone suggested.

6 – Or regular antibiotics?
Another person suggested this: ‘Mum used to get UTIs a lot & a small daily dose of antibiotics used to help ward them off & give her a ‘rolling start’ when she did get one. Infections are evil!’

7 – Or a comprehensive assessment?
A GP made this interesting comment: ‘Has he had a comprehensive geriatric assessment from a consultant geriatrician? If not, I’d recommend it. I’m a GP and find that sometimes the holistic approach of the geriatrician is the ‘deus ex machina’ when the single organ Drs can’t pull it together.’

Overall, we thought the response was amazing – and we hope David found it useful too.

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