Dementia, Incontinence and How to Help a Loved One Cope

10 tips for helping a loved one cope with dementia and incontinence.
In the later stages of Alzheimer’s, Lewy body and other dementias, many people experience a loss of bladder or bowel control. The good news is, there are ways to help a loved one cope, ranging from your demeanor and attitude to physically making it easier to use the bathroom.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, incontinence can be caused by confusion, memory problems, medications, stress, obstacles to reaching the bathroom, difficult-to-remove clothing and more. Contributing medical conditions include constipation, prostate problems, urinary tract infections, diabetes, Parkinson’s and stroke.

When patients have trouble recognizing physical urges or remembering where a bathroom is located, it can contribute to bladder or bowel incontinence. Here are 10 tips from the Alzeimer’s Association for helping a loved one cope with dementia and incontinence:

1. Be supportive, reassuring and matter-of-fact to help reduce feelings of embarrassment. Respect the need for privacy and dignity as much as possible.

2. Provide regular reminders of where a bathroom is located. Keep the bathroom door open so the toilet is visible.

3. Ensure the path to the bathroom is well lit and free of obstacles. Clear the path to the bathroom by moving furniture, throw rugs and cords. Use nightlights to safely point the way.

4. Provide visual cues, such as painting the bathroom door a contrasting color and posting a toilet sign on the door. You can even add glow-in-the-dark tape to mark the path.

5. Make the toilet safe, comfortable and easy to use by adding a raised toilet seat and grab bars. Fortunately, today there are many affordable, easy-to-install bathroom safety products available.

6. Ensure clothing is easy to remove, with no complicated belts or buttons. Tugging on clothing is a nonverbal cue indicating a need to use the toilet; others are restlessness, facial expressions, pacing, sudden silence or hiding behind furniture.

7. Encourage a loved one to cut back on fluids before bedtime or long trips, but never withhold fluids, which can lead to dangerous dehydration.

8. Keep an incontinence journal. If you know accidents happen at certain times, you can plan ahead and remind your loved one to use the bathroom before it’s urgent.

9. Encourage a regular schedule. Help your loved one to the bathroom first thing in the morning, every two hours during the day, immediately after meals and just before bedtime.

10. Stock up on absorbent underwear or adult diapers, pads for beds and chairs, skin care products formulated for those with incontinence, and mobility tools that make it easier to reach the bathroom in time. All of these and more are available right here on The CareGiver Partnership website, or call us at 1-800-985-1353 for personal service from our all-female staff of Product Specialists.

Further Reading: 

Top 7 Dementia Warning Signs

The Relationship Between Lewy Body Dementia and Incontinence

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About The CareGiver Partnership. The CareGiver Partnership helps caregivers and their loved ones with answers to their caregiving questions, including information about home health care products and supplies, from our Wisconsin-based team of Product Specialists who are all current or former caregivers. The company’s Web site provides the largest online library of resources on subjects most important to caregivers — from arthritis to assisted living, and Parkinson’s to prostate cancer — as well as access to more than 3,000 home care products for incontinence, skin care, mobility, home safety and daily living aids. The CareGiver Partnership was founded in 2004 by Lynn Wilson of Neenah, Wisc. Visit to learn more or call 1-800-985-1353.


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