As dementia progresses many people experience incontinence (a loss of bladder and bowel control).
Caregivers often have to take a person to the toilet and cope with incontinence episodes. These situations can be embarrassing for everyone concerned and a major challenge in the later stages of dementia.
If a loved one with dementia starts to experience incontinence, it’s important to try to find out the cause.
Incontinence can be related to a number of medical conditions. Medications, diabetes, prostate problems and stroke can all lead to incontinence. Conditions such as a urinary tract infection can cause sudden incontinence and a change in behaviour that can cease when treated.
Other factors such as memory loss or poor coordination can contribute to incontinence episodes as these factors can make it more difficult for a person to locate and use the toilet on time and correctly.
Caring for someone with incontinence can be tiring and distressing but there are many things you can do to help manage and reduce incontinence episodes.
Tips to help manage incontinence
- Be supportive. Don’t scold a person or talk to them like a child. Respect the need for privacy and dignity.
- Ensure a toilet is easy to find and use. Keeping a bathroom door open, making sure the bathroom is easy to find ( place a bright sign on the door) and the toilet is easy to use can making toileting easier and more effective. Try grab rails, raised seats and brightly coloured toilet seats.
- Establish a routine. Identify when incontinence episodes occur and plan toileting before these times. Establish a toileting regime, before and after meals and before bed. Don’t rush a person on the toilet and double check if they have actually been.
- Consider incontinence products. There are many products available to help manage incontinence. If incontinence is a problem at night, consider pads or bed protectors. Getting up night after night to change sheets and nightwear can eventually take its toll.
- Monitor incontinence episodes. Inform a health professional if a family member experiences sudden incontinence of urine or an increase in episodes. Health issues other than dementia can cause incontinence and should be investigated.