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Incontinence: Causes, Products, and Behavior Management Strategies

Understanding the causes of incontinence and how to recognize when it's happening

When going through dementia, your loved one’s body goes through a lot of changes, and incontinence is, unfortunately, often one of them. There are a few different causes of incontinence in those with dementia, including weakened pelvic muscles, urinary tract infections, and side effects from certain medications. As a caregiver, it's important to keep an eye out for signs of incontinence - this might include sudden urges to go to the bathroom, leaks or accidents, or frequently needing to go during the night. In this article, we’ll explore the topic in depth, including how to manage incontinence, how to keep your loved one comfortable, and more. Let’s dive in.

Different methods of managing incontinence - from incontinence brief (adult diaper) to changing absorbent pads

As a caregiver, managing incontinence is an important responsibility that requires patience and understanding. Luckily, there are several methods to help make this task easier.

Different products to help with managing incontinence include:

  • Incontinence Briefs (Diaper use)

  • Absorbent pads for beds or chairs

  • Inserts (guards) for underwear (both male and female)

  • Reusable incontinence products, such as cloth diapers or washable underpants

  • Items such as a bedside commode, external catheters and portable urinals

To help you create a more comfortable living environment, there are also now special furniture and clothing options designed for managing incontinence, such as:

  • Waterproof mattress protectors that can be easily cleaned and protect against leaks

  • Waterproof chairs and cushions

  • Specially-designed underwear and other garments that offer protection and absorbency without sacrificing style and comfort

These options not only make your job as a caregiver much easier, but they also allow your loved one to feel more confident and independent, which can do wonders for their mental health.

Regardless of which products you choose, it's important to remember that accidents happen. Showing compassion and patience towards the person you're caring for can make all the difference.

Health and safety tips for caregivers dealing with incontinence

Taking care of a loved one who suffers from dementia-related incontinence can be challenging, but it doesn't need to be overwhelming. Here are a few health and safety tips for caregivers that can help navigate the situation with ease.

Health and safety tips for caregivers dealing with incontinence include:

  • Creating a consistent toileting schedule to avoid accidents and discomfort on both ends

  • Investing in comfortable and absorbent undergarments or incontinence pads to prevent skin irritation and bedsores

  • Encouraging regular physical activity and a healthy diet to promote bowel regularity and ease incontinence symptoms

  • Practicing good hygiene by washing hands often and sanitizing surroundings to reduce the risk of infection

With these practices in your toolkit, you can help ensure that your loved one remains safe, healthy, and comfortable throughout their incontinence journey.

The importance of developing trust between caregiver and care recipient

When dealing with incontinence, deep trust between the caregiver and care recipient is crucial. Strategies for building trust and improving communication include:

  • Taking the time to develop/repair a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding – doing what you can to set aside any old differences, grudges, or frustrations that could be hindering progress

  • Creating a safe space for your loved one to talk about their experience

  • Being empathetic and supportive

  • Avoiding laughter or jokes about the situation (unless they have consented to them)

  • Providing reassurance and encouragement

  • Coming up with code words or signals you can use to discuss problems in public or around other family members. In the earlier stages of dementia, this will help them maintain a feeling of privacy and discreetness when they need to communicate about it.

Overall, trust is key to helping your loved one navigate the challenges of incontinence with dignity and respect.

Strategies for dealing with stress and burnout when caring for someone with incontinence

When caring for someone with incontinence, especially paired with dementia, it's natural to experience stress and burnout. However, there are strategies you can implement to alleviate these feelings. Some of these strategies for dealing with stress and burnout when caring for someone with incontinence include:

  • Taking breaks and giving yourself time to recharge

  • Considering hiring a caregiver for a few hours a week or enlisting the help of family and friends to give yourself respite

  • Taking care of your own physical and emotional needs, such as eating well, exercising, and getting enough quality sleep each night

  • Finding support through a caregiver support group, online caregiver group, or counseling

Closing Thoughts

The journey of caring for a loved one with dementia can be incredibly challenging and isolating. It is important to remember that you are not alone in the process. If you’re in need of support, we have an article here that lists some of the Free Resources and Support available to Family Caregivers in Orange County, California.

We hope this article provided helpful information to equip family caregivers with additional skills and strategies to better help their loved ones through this process. Please reach out to us if you’re a caregiver in Orange County and ‌share this with anyone who could benefit from these resources.

See our Tip Video about Incontinence here:

Every family caregiver faces a unique set of challenges. An often misunderstood and particularly difficult example is hoarding behavior. This behavior is on a spectrum that can range from a loved one struggling to downsize to a more manageable space, to full hoarding disorders.

Learn more about how to deal with this behavior here.


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