Dementia refers to a collection of symptoms that are caused by a range of disorders that affect the brain.

Common signs and symptoms of dementia include:

  • Memory trouble, especially short-term memory. 
  • Language difficulties
  • Mood changes
  • Difficulty performing normal, common or familiar tasks
  • Poor direction and orientation
  • Confusion

The changes in a person’s brain caused by dementia can interfere with their ability to:

  • Recognize the need to go to the toilet
  • Be able to wait until it is appropriate to go to the toilet
  • Find the toilet
  • Recognize the toilet or Use the toilet properly 

Things that are important to support someone with Dementia with issues with incontinence

  • Communication with someone with Dementia  need to be clear with language
  • Watch for non-verbal clues, 
  • Monitor intake of fluids Manage constipation, 

There are some broad rules for working in a helpful way with people with dementia:

  • Listen with care and respond to the person;
  • Get rid of clutter. Keep the space around them simple and well known to them;
  • Show respect and sincere care.

Check Bladder and bowel movement = The carer is often the best person to give the details needed to check bladder and bowel control, such as:

  • the time the person goes to the toilet and/or leaks;
  • how wet the person is; minor = underwear is damp; moderate = skirt or trousers are wet; or severe = chair, floor or bed is flooded; and;
  • when and how often they open their bowels.

Manage poor bladder and bowel control

  • Treat the cause of the problem. 
  • Review medicines.
  • Make sure the person with dementia drinks 1.5 - 2 litres of fluid per day. Coffee, tea, and cola have a lot of caffeine, which can upset the bladder and make the bladder harder to control. Try to cut down on how many of these drinks they have.
  • Treat constipation. Make sure they eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water throughout the day, and stay active.
  • Watch for signs they want to go to the toilet.
  • If they have trouble with zips and buttons, change to tracksuits, trousers with elastic waists, or use Velcro.
  • Keep the way to the toilet clear.

People with dementia, just like other adults, are susceptible to other causes of incontinence, such as infection, constipation, hormonal changes, and prostate enlargement. Many of these other conditions are treatable, so the first step is always to consult the doctor to obtain a full medical assessment and find out why the incontinence is occurring. Consulting with a continence nurse may also be helpful.

dementia and incontinence