Alzheimer’s Help: How to Handle Incontinence in Alzheimer’s Patients

Alzheimer’s disease is a much feared illness in part because it is still incurable, but in part also because it reduces active, healthy adults who are accustomed to their independent lifestyles to suddenly become dependent on others not only for assistance with such tasks as shopping and house cleaning, but even such intimate aspects of living as feeding and even toileting. Incontinence - while sometimes a normal aspect of aging - may be a hugely embarrassing aspect of this illness to someone who suffers from the gradual diminishing of her or his faculties; more often than not it is perceived as adding insult to injury. Caregivers as well often have a hard time seeing the gradual mental as well as physical decline of their loved one as the disease progresses. 

There are a number of steps a caregiver can take that will help both her or him as well as the loved one take this new hurdle of incontinence in a stride, and with a bit of preparation and know how, the embarrassment may be reduced and a feeling of dignity will be preserved for the patient. Here are five suggestions to make this process easier:

- The urge to use the bathroom propels us to excuse ourselves from activities and go in search of these facilities. Unfortunately, when a loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, she or he will sometimes not recognize this urge anymore. She or he may literally forget to use the bathroom prior to leaving the house or during activities. This will then result in embarrassing episodes of loss of bladder or even bowel control. Knowing that this is part and parcel of this disease, the caregiver should purchase adult incontinence products, such as adult briefs, that will help to reduce the occurrence of embarrassing public moments. Be certain that your loved ones has the products easily accessible and knows how to put them on. Similarly, it will not hurt to have a couple of spares in your purse when accompanying your loved one to go shopping or on other errands.

- While at home, make sure that your loved has easy access to the bathroom. This means that it is only a few short steps from her or his bedroom to the bathroom, and it also means that you, as the care giver, ensure that your loved ones dresses in such a manner that clothes may be removed quickly and easily when visiting the bathroom. There are many attractive clothing options available for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and none of them have cumbersome buttons, snaps, drawstrings or zippers that make using the bathroom harder than necessary.

- Remind your loved one to use the restroom. Good times for such reminders are prior to leaving the house, prior to leaving a restaurant, prior to entering a movie theater and before leaving the theater. Additionally, you may also wish to remind the patient during activities. Of course, to preserve her or his dignity it is important to not make these reminders too obvious or loud enough for others to hear. As a variance, you may indicate that you need to use the restroom, even if you don’t, and request your loved one to accompany you. 

- Set up your loved one for success. While it is highly likely that she or he will have accidents at night, it should not mean that there would be copious clean up in the morning. Ensure that she or he is wearing adult briefs, and further purchase rubberized sheets and mattress under pads that will soak up any moisture, making clean up quick, easy, and discreet. 

- Last but not least, please be sure to preserve your loved one’s dignity with actions as well as words. Make light of accidents, and be supportive and loving. In addition to the foregoing, do not discuss her or his incontinence with mutual friends, family members or acquaintances unless their discretion can be relied upon completely.

Thus, incontinence is indeed a problem that needs to be dealt with when caring for an Alzheimer’s patient; however, with a bit of finesse, it can be solved in such a manner as to provide maximum care for your loved one while at the same time not hurting her or his frail and failing sense of dignity.


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