Caring for someone with incontinence is not all in the mind

When one talks about caring for someone with incontinence, that someone is usually thought of as suffering from mental illness – dementia in general, Alzheimer’s disease in particular. However, physical disabilities can also deprive a person of control of his or her bladder. Or maybe they sound in mind and body except for not being able to empty their bladders at will. Though incontinence care basically remains constant in all cases, the caregiver does need to keep certain things in mind depending on the particular circumstances of the loved one they provide care for.

Caring for someone with incontinence if the person is:

a)Mostly self-sufficient

Discuss the following alternatives with your loved one and with his or her doctor:

Pelvic exercises

·         Recommended for stress incontinence.

·         Improves up to 70% of mild/moderate cases.

·         Reestablish control of pelvic floor muscles that close the urethra.

Medical devices

·         Catheters (male, female, external, internal).

·         Drainage bags.

Drugs and surgery

·         Certain prescription drugs.

·         Certain surgical procedures.


b)Physically disabled and/or Mentally ill

Create a proper environment

·         Make sure the path to the bathroom is clear, especially for people in a wheelchair or walker.

·         Promote the use of easily-removable clothing to help avoid accidents.


Watch fluid intake

·         Both drinking too much and too little fluid can have adverse consequences; a natural balance predicated on normal thirst is better.

·         Timing is perhaps more important than quantity; it is recommendable to limit fluid intake in the evening.

·         Avoid alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, and other diuretic liquids.

Promote hygiene

·         Keep spare incontinence products (such as male or female incontinence underwear or female or male adult diapers) close at hand – especially in the bathroom and bedroom – so that the person can be changed immediately after soiling themselves.

Skin care

·         Ointments, creams, and lotions are available to help prevent and relieve the irritation caused by moisture.

·         Washcloths and wipes are gentler on the skin than regular toilet paper.

Set up a routine

·         Scheduled trips to the bathroom can help people keep an empty bladder and prevent accidents, and accustomed them to specific times to go even if they have memory problems.

c)All of the above

·         Keep calm; incontinence does not have to be a tempest in a teapot.

·         Reassure the person that incontinence is very common and they are not alone.

·         Provide incontinence supplies including:

-        Briefs, undergarments, and underwear.

-        Pads, guards, and pant liners.

-        Adult diapers.

-        Bed pads, underpads, and mattress protectors.

-        Urinals and bedpans.

·         Consider help from local services and resources like adult daycare centers.


These pieces of advice are meant to be of assistance for people who care for someone with incontinence, but they should not be construed as a replacement for a physician’s recommendations.

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