It’s heart breaking to see someone you love begin to lose control of bodily functions; and dealing with urinary or fecal incontinence can be really awkward. Not just for the caregiver, but also for the person with dementia. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Look for a cause. There are many things that can cause incontinence, and not all of them are dementia related. Examples include weak pelvic muscles from childbirth, certain medications (e.g., diuretics, narcotics, sleeping pills), diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and limited mobility. Talk to your loved one’s Kansas City primary care physician about any potential causes or contributing factors.
  2. Offer frequent bathroom breaks. Frequent reminders and/or helping your loved one with dementia to the bathroom upon waking, every two hours thereafter, and before bed can help cut down on accidents.
  3. Make the bathroom stand out. Sometimes, people with dementia have episodes of incontinence because they have a hard time finding or getting to the bathroom. Make the bathroom more easily accessible by decluttering the hallway, putting a sign that says BATHROOM in big bold letters on the bathroom door, leaving the bathroom light on at night, and/or installing nightlights in the hallway (and in the bedroom where your loved one with dementia is sleeping).
  4. Pay attention. People with dementia may show signs of stress when they need to urinate (or defecate). Watch for telltale behaviors like crossing legs, pacing, and restlessness.
  5. Use comfortable clothing. Incontinence in a person with dementia can be due, in part, to difficulty removing clothing. If your loved one with dementia doesn’t own any clothing that’s easy to slip on and off, you may want to purchase a few comfortable (and machine washable) outfits.
  6. Prepare for accidents. Despite your best efforts, accidents do happen. You’ll save yourself a lot of time if you invest in some washable protective pads for the bed, a waterproof mattress cover, and/or adult briefs. If you use the briefs, check them frequently, and change them when wet. And don’t use baby powder; it holds in moisture.
  7. Get help. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, or other form of dementia, can be exhausting. Even more so when the disease progresses to a point where the person with dementia becomes incontinent. If you need assistance, enlist the help of a Kansas City home care agency that specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Your home health caregivers can help keep your loved one clean, groomed, and dry.

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Being a caregiver of someone who requires 24/7 care is tough under any circumstances. Add in dealing with confusion, aggression, sundowning, wandering, and all the other behaviors that go along with Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s not a wonder why as an Alzheimer’s caregiver, you may be sleep deprived.

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