"A catheter is a thin, soft tube that is left in place and attached to a bag that collects the urine. It may be inserted into the bladder of people who lose control of their bladder or cannot use a toilet (for instance, someone in a coma.) Catheters may be used because there is a physical reason the urine cannot drain naturally, to keep a patient with pressure sores that are not healing clean and dry, or to measure the amount of urine being produced."
Why is this important?: "A catheter should only be used when it is medically necessary. Residents may need a lot of help to get to the toilet, or they may have to go frequently. A catheter should not be used for the convenience of the nursing home staff. Using a catheter may result in complications, like urinary tract or blood infections, physical injury, skin problems, bladder stones, or blood in the urine. Some studies have shown that long-term use of indwelling catheters (over many years) may increase the rates of bladder cancer in patients with spinal cord injuries."
Taken from the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services: Nursing Home Information for Consumers