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Tuesday, 19 September 2017 00:00

Top tips for understanding and managing incontinence

One of the realities of late stage Alzheimer’s and dementia is incontinence, which is the loss of bladder and bowel control. As a ‘thorn in the side’ of many Alzheimer’s and dementia patients there are many ways to assist in maintaining the dignity of those suffering from incontinence, but the first step is to understand the possible causes of this condition…

Causes of incontinence

In those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, incontinence is generally characterised by the inability to recognise the need to use the bathroom, forgetting where the bathroom is located, certain medications, stress, physical conditions, overly restrictive clothing and constipation. If you notice the onset of incontinence and its increased frequency, it’s important to determine possible causes:

  • Medical conditions such as urinary tract infection, constipation, prostate problems, diabetes, stroke, muscular disorder and Parkinson’s disease
  • Medications such as sleeping pills and anxiety medication can relax the bladder and bowels
  • Diet: too much caffeine, tea and fizzy drinks can act as a diuretic
  • Physical conditions: Unable to get to the bathroom in time, obstacles on the way to the bathroom or difficult clothing to remove.

Tips for managing incontinence

  • Non-verbal cues are among the best signals to managing incontinence -tugging at clothing, restlessness, facial expressions and withdrawn silence may indicate a need to use the bathroom
  • Identify the most common times or instances when accidents occur and plan for them – if these accidents occur every two –three hours, ensure you are in the bathroom by this time
  • Remind those with Alzheimer’s or dementia to use the bathroom regularly
  • Try setting up a regular schedule for bathroom use
  • Dress in comfortable, non-restrictive clothing
  • Consider introducing incontinence products such as waterproof mattress covers, incontinence pads or adult briefs
  • Be patient and allow for plenty of time in the bathroom if needed

Incontinence is a daily reality for many late-stage Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, ensuring this condition is properly managed is essential to maintaining a sense of ‘normality’ and dignity in their everyday lives. The trick is to stay alert to non-verbal cues and handling each situation, no matter how frequent, with reassurance and patience.

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