Tips on Caring for Someone with Alzheimer's and Incontinence
by Gary Sattin on Sep 19, 2022
One can experience incontinence at any age, although factors such as age or other health conditions may increase your risk. For example, individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s are likely to experience incontinence due to various symptoms that come with the disease. This may include the brain holding back necessary signals to alert someone of their need to urinate or other circumstances such as muscle failure. Oftentimes, Alzheimer patients may find themselves unable to locate a restroom. Additionally, medications such as diuretics or blood pressure pills could contribute to incontinence in these patients.
A large portion—60 to 70%—of those with Alzheimer’s will suffer from incontinence at some point. If you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and they begin to display some of the common signs of incontinence, you’ll want to take them to a doctor. Seeing a doctor will confirm whether the patient is dealing with incontinence or a UTI. From here, the doctor will discuss how you can help manage the condition. It may require some extra care on your part but taking the correct steps in dealing with their condition will help the individual you’re caring for feel more comfortable.
We understand that caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and incontinence can be difficult. It takes time and careful strategizing on your and the doctor’s part. As you read on, know that we recognize the task you are undertaking. It’s a huge thing to assume responsibility for, and your generosity is extremely commendable. We’ve crafted this article as an easy reference guide on how to handle both of these conditions in conjunction with each other.
Help Them Communicate
Oftentimes, Alzheimer patients experience difficulties communicating their need to use the restroom, which can lead to potential accidents. Even though they may not have the ability to relay their needs in a way that’s easy to understand, a patient may develop their own way of displaying urgency. Educating yourself on common ways that seniors display their needs and learning how the person under your care communicates their symptoms will prove incredibly helpful. Things you can do include:
- Be mindful of their body language. Even if they aren’t aware that they’re doing it, patients have different ways in which they signal their need to use the restroom. Pay attention to their facial expressions, as well as their movements. Oftentimes, patients will reach for their undergarments, which is a sign of their having to use the restroom.
- Ask them. They can forget that they need to use the restroom right after they realized it, or they may not consider that they should share the information that they need to go.
- Pay attention to lights. If it’s nighttime and they’ve gone to bed, keep an eye on the light in their bedroom. If it turns on, there’s a chance that they woke up and need to use the restroom. Should this be the case, enter their room and see if there’s any way that you can assist them.
There’s an additional chance that the patient will not always be aware that they have to use the restroom. For this reason, you should schedule times for them to relieve themselves. Ideally, you’ll offer them the opportunity to use the restroom every two to four hours. Around meal times and just before bed are perfect times to schedule these visits, as you’ll oftentimes serve these meals at the same time each day.
It’s important that you don’t limit your patient’s liquid intake as a means of lessening the effects of their incontinence. Proper hydration is still essential. The one exception would be limiting water intake for the half-hour before bed to prevent bedwetting.
You’ll feel most at ease if you’re prepared for any potential situation. There are a variety of ways to prepare, all of which are beneficial to both parties. It’s essential to have a small bag packed at all times for any situation. These items are especially helpful for when out in public. The bag should include:
- A change of clothes
- Sanitary wipes
- Protective undergarments
- A plastic bag for any waste
Incontinence products are always good to have on hand as they lessen the need to clean up messes. Some patients may have an aversion to incontinence products. If they aren’t aware of their condition, they could feel disgusted and degraded when given these items. It’s difficult when something is necessary, but the patients aren’t receptive. You can try to make them as comfortable as possible by using products such as fitted briefs as opposed to bulky liners.
Make the Bathroom Easy to Find
It’s common for Alzheimer patients to experience difficulty finding the restroom. Even if they’ve lived in the same place for years, their disability may render them unable to locate the room. As such, you should escort the patient to the restroom whenever possible and ensure that it’s easy to find.
Keep the door open at all times and make sure that there’s a clear path to the restroom. There should be no furniture or any other potential obstacles in the way. You may have to stay in the bathroom while the patient is relieving themselves. To make it easier for both of you, be sure that they’re wearing pants secured either with elastic or Velcro.
To help the doctor form a care plan, carefully document any patterns you may see. The more you can write down the better. Doctors may be able to identify something that you couldn’t, so having an account of the patient’s habits may aid them in strategizing a long-term plan.
Care for Yourself
Throughout this process, keep in mind that your self-care is just as important as the care you’re providing to someone else. If you’re working yourself to the point of exhaustion or irritability, you aren’t going to be doing anyone any favors. It’s extremely important that you take the time to pay attention to your own quality of living.
If you live with the patient, see if anyone qualified to care for them can stand in for you once in a while. You need this time off to rest and recharge. The best way to care for another person is to give yourself an equal amount of time and attention. Only then will you be well-equipped to care for someone else.
This task requires both love and patience. When you apply both, you’re giving the patient the amount of attention they deserve. If you have any further questions, talk to your healthcare professional or a therapist. Together, you can collaborate on ways to determine the best approach.
It isn’t easy, but with time, you’ll settle into a routine. We know you’ve got this—make sure that you do as well.