Caregiver’s Corner: Incontinence…An Unspoken, But Real Problem

Incontinence

Incontinence is an unwelcome problem that caregivers often face when caring for their loved ones. Incontinence is the loss of bladder and bowel control. Incontinence in individuals with dementia usually leads to a significantly increased involvement of the caregiver in their personal care needs. Incontinence can be one of the more challenging and even intimidating issues that some caregivers face.

Here are a few tips for helping to manage incontinence:

  •  Look for signs that your loved one may need to use the bathroom. Pacing, making faces, looking anxious or tugging on clothes are some possible indicators.
  • Create a bathroom schedule that involves taking your loved one to the bathroom every two to four hours.
  • Make sure that the bathroom is clearly labeled, free from clutter and well-lit.
  • Be careful not to limit fluids regularly, due to the risk for dehydration. You may want to consider limiting drinks right before bedtime to prevent awakening/wetting at night.
  • Allow for regular physical activity during the day.
  • Most importantly, seek professional medical advice so that a thorough evaluation can be done to rule out temporary incontinence causes.

Despite your best efforts, incontinence may still occur, which will then require caregivers to pay close attention to the health of your loved one’s skin. Ensure that your loved one has dry clothes on at all times to prevent skin breakdown. Check their brief every two hours to see if they need to be changed and to check for redness on the skin. If an accident occurs, change clothes and wash the genital area with warm water and mild soap, as needed. Most importantly, remember that your loved on is not purposely having accidents. Scolding them or isolating them will lead to humiliation and distress. Rather, give them assistance as needed with toileting, flushing and cleaning. Managing accidents in a matter of-fact-way will help you cope and create a better situation for you both.

For many more useful tips on managing incontinence, check out our tips on Caregiver Central: http://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-incontinence.asp

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