Incontinence Is a Manageable Symptom of Alzheimer’s

Dianna Malkowski

by Dianna Malkowski, Physician Assistant & Nutritionist

As new Alzheimer’s biomarker results are reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2014, let’s explore the relationship between Alzheimer’s and incontinence and ways to help a loved one manage the disease.

This month, the Alzheimer’s Association reported new biomarker results that may lead to earlier detection of cognitive impairment. Results of four research trials were reported this month at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Demark.

The results show two significant biomarkers for cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease: A decreased ability to identify odors indicated loss of brain cell function and progression toward Alzheimer’s disease, while a buildup of beta-amyloid in the eye correlated to buildup of this sticky plaque-like substance in the brain. Beta-amyloid is known to build up in the brain for years before symptoms of memory loss and other cognitive problems manifest themselves.

Although it’s only possible to detect Alzheimer’s disease late in its development, this offers hope for finding ways to detect it at an earlier stage.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include persistent and worsening memory loss, disorientation, changes in personality and behavior, and problems speaking, writing, thinking, reasoning, making decisions or performing familiar tasks.

Incontinence also is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Because Alzheimer’s is a neurological disease, patients often have trouble recognizing physical urges or remembering where a bathroom is located, which can contribute to bladder or bowel incontinence. Certain medications also relax the bladder muscles or cause increased urination.”

Malkowski offers tips from the Alzheimer’s Association for helping a loved one cope with dementia and incontinence: 
  • Remind the person where the bathroom is located, and encourage a regular schedule.
  • Ensure the path to the bathroom is clear of obstacles and well lit. Provide visual cues by painting the bathroom door a contrasting color and posting a toilet sign on the door.
  • Make a bathroom safer with grab bars, a raised toilet seat and nightlights.
  • Provide clothing that is easy to remove, with no complicated belts or buttons.
  • Use an IncontinenceProduct Finder to choose disposable undergarments by style, selecting a type your loved one can easily get on and off.
  • Explain the importance of keeping skin clean, moisturized and protected, using products made to prevent breakdown and infection.
  • Protect bedding and furniture with disposable pads.
  • Never withhold fluids, which can lead to dangerous dehydration, but encourage your loved one to cut back before bedtime.

Dianna Malkowski is a Board Certified Physician Assistant and Mayo Clinic trained nutritionist specializing in diabetes, cancer, wound healing, therapeutic diets and nutrition support. She serves on the board of professional advisors for The CareGiver Partnership and enjoys working with patients and caregivers alike. Ask Dianna a question.

 Watch this video on how to use our free Incontinence Product Finder tool.


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