During the middle to late stages of dementia, individuals may experience incontinence ( loss of control on bladder movement for both urine and faeces). The severity of this depends on person to person. It can range from small leaks to the complete loss of bladder control which usually occurs during the late stages. Women, especially are more prone to this problem as when they laugh, cough, or sneeze small leaks can occur (due to stress incontinence). Incontinence can cause the individual embarrassment as it is an extremely personal matter, so it is important to deal with this situation with care.
Multiple factors cause incontinence. As the individual goes through the stages of dementia, they experience loss of key brain functions and their body’s biological clock (controlled by neurons in the brain) get affected. This leads to problems such as incontinence. Out of the two types of incontinence: faecal and urinary, faecal incontinence is less common and is most commonly caused by constipation. Here are a list of causes for urinary incontinence:
Confusion: A person dealing with dementia is slowly losing their memory so they will encounter difficulty taking in their environment. They will become unable to recognize where the restroom is leading to accidents. As they progress to the late stages, they will eventually forget how to use the toilet all together.
Clothing: Tight clothing as well as clothing with buttons and zippers are difficult for a person dealing with dementia to take off. This may lead to them having an accident even if they reach the restroom on time.
Existing Health Issues: If the individual is already dealing with urinary tract infections and prostate problems this may make them more prone to developing incontinence.
As a caregiver for someone with dementia, you want to make them as comfortable as possible. Here’s a list of suggestions which you can implement to help your loved one deal with incontinence:
Apparel: Velcro and elastic clothing are easy to wear and take off. This will help your loved one easily use the bathroom if they are in an emergency.
Incontinence Products: Once your loved one reaches the late stages of dementia they will not be able to use the bathroom anymore. Incontinence pads, padded undergarments, adult briefs/pull ups are great ways to solve this problem. You can also use waterproof mattress covers and chair pads to place on wheelchairs and beds to keep your loved one comfortable.
Limit Fluids Before Bed: Although you shouldn’t withhold fluids from your loved one (this can lead to them developing urinary tract infection and become dehydrated) try and have them drink a minimal amount of water before sleeping.
Look for Nonverbal Cues: Your loved one’s behavior can tell you a lot about what they are feeling. If you notice them fidgeting with their clothes, start pacing, or change their facial expression this may mean that they need to use the restroom.
Find A Pattern: Take notice of when your loved one uses the restroom and when their accidents occur. With this knowledge you can help them get to the bathroom before the time their accidents usually occur to avoid them all together.
Make the Bathroom Easy To Use: Use a different color toilet lid so that your loved one can easily distinguish the toilet from the rest of the bathroom. Raise the toilet seat and install grab bars on both sides of the seat. This will limit confusion and avoid accidents.