Incontinence refers to the involuntary release of urine from the bladder or bowel movement. Most people with dementia experience this situation especially in the later stages of the disease. It can be caused by many factors, including:
Failure to recognize the need to use the toilet
Obstacles on the way to the toilet, like clutter or some furniture
Forgetting where the bathroom is located
Difficulty in removing one’s clothing
Medication side effects
Certain physical disabilities
When incontinence occurs, extend your support to the person and apply these tips.
Watch out for nonverbal cues. Be keen to observe certain behaviors, such as tugging on clothing, pacing, restlessness, hiding behind furniture, or sudden silence. These cues may indicate that the person needs to use the toilet.
Reassure your loved one. Instead of reprimanding him, speak kindly to the person when he accidentally wets himself. You may say, “It’s Ok, accidents do happen.” Take note if there is a pattern for his incontinence. If, for example, the accident happens every two hours, remind the person to use the toilet before that time. Many people with dementia do well if they have a fixed schedule for emptying their bladder and bowels.
Make the toilet easy to find and use. Make sure that nothing obstructs between the toilet and the person. Remove clutter, furniture, or other things that make it difficult for him to walk. Leave the bathroom door open, so he could readily see the toilet. Place a sign with illustration on the bathroom door.
Never withhold fluids. Some drinks have more diuretic effects, like beer, coffee, or tea. You may limit the person’s intake of these fluids, if necessary. But, do not attempt to control the person’s accidents by not giving him enough water to drink. It will only cause dehydration, which can lead to other problems. He might develop a urinary tract infection and become more agitated. His incontinence might also worsen. You may, however, limit his water intake before bedtime.
A commode or urinal may help. Leave a commode or urinal in the person’s bedroom in case he needs to empty himself at night.
Easy to unfasten clothing. Let your loved one wear loose and easy to remove clothes. Make sure also that these clothes are easy to wash.
Incontinence products. For the convenience for both of you and the person with dementia, consider using incontinence products. Put waterproof mattress covers and incontinence pads on his bed. Or, let him wear adult briefs or padded undergarments. You may also ask his urologist for the appropriate product to use.
When incontinence starts occurring, consult with the person’s physician. He might be suffering from urinary tract infection or medication side effects that need immediate attention. It also helps if you encourage him to tell you when he needs to use the toilet.