Dementia care requires both compassion and creativity to manage a variety of complicated behaviors and effects, and that’s especially true when it comes to dementia and incontinence, something that is extremely common in Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. These tried-and-true strategies can be effective in minimizing the impact of incontinence and preventing an escalation of emotions in someone you love with dementia.
Choose your words carefully. Rather than referring to incontinence products as “diapers,” for instance, call them “briefs” or “pull-up underwear.” However, take the cue from your loved one; if he or she chooses to use the term “diapers” and seems comfortable with that, then follow along.
Remove regular underwear from the senior’s dresser. To avoid confusion or resistance to wearing incontinence products, make sure those are the only option in his or her wardrobe.
Experiment with different products. With different brands, sizes, and absorbency levels available, it may take some trial and error to find one that’s most comfortable and effective.
Use backup products overnight. To help prevent the senior from waking during the night from incontinence-related issues, try placing booster pads inside the absorbent underwear, and use products marked for heaviest coverage. Waterproof mattress protectors and disposable bed pads are also extremely helpful.
Ensure easy access to the bathroom. Perform a walk-through of the areas the older adult spends time to gauge how easy it is for him or her to get to the bathroom. In particular, remove any clutter, cords, or throw rugs in the person’s walking path to prevent falls.
If an accident does occur… Maintain a calm demeanor so as not to upset (or further upset) the older adult, and say something like, “It looks like something may have spilled on your pants; let’s get you some clean clothes,” or “It looks like your pants are wet; that happens sometimes.”
Address reluctance to keep products on. For seniors who repeatedly attempt to remove incontinence products, first see if you can determine the reason. If discomfort is a factor, try different types of products for one that will be more comfortable. Or your loved one may be trying to change if there’s a feeling of wetness.
In all cases, keep an eye on the senior’s skin for signs of rash or irritation, and contact his or her medical professional if noted.