5 Tips for Caring for a Loved One with Incontinence

By 8  am on

Addressing incontinence in a senior loved one can be challenging. Luckily, there are strategies that can substantially ease the task. With a little effort, caregivers can help their senior loved ones handle their incontinence. Here are a few ways to address incontinence in the elderly. 

1. Make a Doctor’s Appointment to Assess Incontinence

Urinary Incontinence

There are six kinds of urinary incontinence. Typically, it stems from weakened pelvic muscles, which support the bladder. However, leakage can result from kidney stones, cancer, or a urinary tract infection. Incontinence can also be a side effect of certain medications. 

Furthermore, some diseases can lead to incontinence. Among them are obesity, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. In men, incontinence can be a symptom of prostate enlargement. 

Urinary incontinence is just one of the many health issues older adults are susceptible to. Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality homecare services. Trust Embrace In-Home Care to help your elderly loved one age in place safely and comfortably.

Bowel Incontinence

Also termed fecal incontinence, there are two types. Stool can leak occasionally, triggered by passing gas. Or a person can have total loss of bowel control. Most often, bowel incontinence is linked to hemorrhoids, diarrhea, nerve damage, chronic constipation, or muscle damage. 

Identifying the Cause

As incontinence undermines your loved one’s health, it’s vital to pinpoint the source. Also, it helps to know the type of incontinence your loved one has. This way, you can better anticipate and meet your loved one’s needs. 

Various practitioners can diagnose urinary incontinence. Options include urologists, geriatricians, and nurse practitioners. Additionally, your loved one’s primary care physician (PCP) can refer you to a urinary specialist. 

For bowel incontinence, take your loved one to his or her PCP. The doctor can advise whether to see a proctologist, gastroenterologist, or colorectal surgeon. After the clinician makes a diagnosis, he or she will tailor treatment to the cause of incontinence. If loss of control persists, there are ways to address the issue, reducing the stress on you and your loved one. 

2. Avoid Serving Foods that Worsen Incontinence

Urinary Incontinence

Some foods are bladder irritants, rousing the urge to void. Bladder sensitivity varies among seniors. In most cases, what distresses the bladder is caffeine or the acidic nature of certain foods. The following can prompt accidents: 

  • Caffeinated tea and coffee 
  • Carbonated drinks such as soda, seltzer, and sparkling water
  • Citrus fruits, pineapples, cranberries, and their juices
  • Tomatoes, tomato-based products, and raw onions
  • Chocolate
  • Honey and artificial sweeteners
  • Sugary foods and beverages
  • Condiments such as mayonnaise, vinegar, ketchup, and soy sauce
  • Spicy fare, including fiery chili, wasabi, and strong salsa
  • Alcoholic drinks

Keeping a food diary can help you track the impact of the above food items. If any are your loved one’s favorites, you may be able to keep them in his or her diet. Before stopping them altogether, try reducing the quantity or potency of the items you serve. 

Bowel Incontinence

Specific dietary modifications depend on the cause of incontinence. Ask your loved one’s doctor for advice. 

3. Handle Accidents with Tact & Positivity

Easing Embarrassment

Incontinence can provoke anxiety. Some seniors feel humiliated, which can degrade their self-esteem. The best way to manage incontinence is with kindness. One way to alleviate negative feelings is by responding with humor. For instance, if your loved one needs to change clothes, you could say “Now’s the perfect time to try on your new pants. They highlight your lovely eyes!” Or you could reassure your loved one by saying “Hey, it’s no problem! We’ll have you comfy again shortly.” When you stay calm, upbeat, and respectful, you preserve your loved one’s dignity.

Soothing Agitation

For some seniors, incontinence sparks anger. In turn, they may resent efforts to help them and lash out. To get your loved one’s cooperation, put yourself in his or her shoes. Confide that if you were having accidents, you’d be angry, too. 

Now that you’ve shown empathy and compassion, your loved one should feel less frustrated. If not, or if your loved one has dementia, consider joining an online support group. You’ll learn communication tips from other caregivers. It can also be helpful to consult a mental health professional who specializes in geriatric or dementia care. 

If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Embrace In-Home Care, a Green Valley senior care agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services.

4. Promote Your Loved One’s Safety

When the need to void is urgent, seniors may rush to the bathroom. In their haste, they can get hurt, such as by falling. Here are ways to make injuries less likely: 

  • Provide traction – Throughout the day, ensure your loved one wears sturdy shoes. At night, ask your parent to wear nonskid socks to bed. For instance, have your loved one don “hospital socks” with gripping treads.
  • Consider a commode – If your loved one’s bedroom isn’t close to the lavatory, place a commode near the bed.
  • Light the way – If your loved one can use the restroom, station night lights along the route. If the bathroom light switch is difficult to reach, install one with a motion sensor.
  • Use color coding – In the restroom, cue your loved one’s movements with a color theme. For instance, install a blue switch plate, blue grab bar, and blue toilet seat cover. For seniors with cognitive issues, color coding can jog their toileting memory.
  • Prevent slips and falls – Provide a safe path to the bathroom by removing obstructive clutter. Eliminate throw rugs and secure loose carpeting. Repair any warped floorboards, which could trip your loved one.

5. Schedule Toileting at the Same Time Daily

Regular toileting lessens the chances of accidents. If your loved one follows a routine, his or her body may learn to void at specific times. 

A daily schedule is highly conducive for seniors with dementia. The predictability lends order to their lives, fostering emotional stability and security. 

Ideal toileting times are upon awakening, after meals, and before going to bed. Tailor additional toilet visits to your loved one’s urge to void. 

Toileting Success

Promote effective toileting by ensuring your loved one’s comfort. First, make sure the lavatory is quiet, with a pleasant room temperature. Allow plenty of time to void, helping your loved one relax. 

If your parent is thin or frail, you can outfit the toilet with a padded seat cushion. You’ll find this accessory at surgical supply stores, large pharmacies, and online. 

With your loved one seated on the toilet, ask him or her to lean forward, feet flat on the floor. Such positioning encourages voiding. If your loved one has dementia and can’t follow your instructions, show him or her what to do. 

The sound of running water facilitates urination. Rather than wasting tap water, you can download an app replicating the sound. 

If possible, teach your loved one how to drain his or her bladder. This way, your parent will have a lower risk of urinary tract infections and need to make fewer trips to the bathroom. The way to empty the bladder is by “double voiding.” After your loved one urinates once, have him or her wait about three minutes, then try voiding again. 

More Tips

Use high-quality incontinence care products: 

  • Skin care – Gentle cleansing wipes ward off skin irritation and rashes. Barrier creams protect the skin from stool and urine, preventing sores. Two types popular with caregivers are A&D ointment and zinc oxide salve.
  • Clothing – A woman can wear open-backed dresses. For either a man or a woman, choose pants with elastic waistbands. Washable incontinence underwear saves money versus disposable underwear and pads. Stay-dry linings shield against skin breakdown.
  • Furnishings – Protect your loved one’s bed with waterproof mattress covers and bed pads. Likewise, place waterproof covers on chairs. Choose products that keep surfaces dry for a minimum of six hours.

If you join an online support group, you can get product recommendations from fellow caregivers. You’ll also gain emotional support and encouragement and learn stress-reducing strategies. 

Exercises for Strengthening Pelvic Muscles

Kegel exercises can strengthen your loved one’s pelvic muscles, preventing leaks. Look online for printed exercise instructions and video demonstrations. At some urology offices, the nurses teach Kegel exercises. 

Isolating and contracting the pelvic muscles takes practice. Since learning the technique can be challenging, don’t have your parent pursue Kegels if he or she has dementia. 

Certain age-related conditions can make it more challenging for seniors to age in place safely and comfortably, but Green Valley live-in care experts are available around the clock to help seniors manage their health. Whether your loved one is living with dementia or recovering from a stroke, you can trust the professional caregivers from Embrace In-Home Care to enhance his or her quality of life. For more information about our flexible, customizable home care plans, call one of our compassionate Care Managers today.


    Request Free Information or
    Schedule a Free in-Home Consultation