How Do You Solve the Problem of Incontinence with Dementia? … It Depends …

Although the title of this article is designed to make one smile, incontinence and dementia are no laughing matter. Incontinence, which refers to the loss of control of bowel and/or bladder, is a common problem for those with dementia. It is important to consider what could be causing the incontinence. Then the caregivers should learn how to approach the subject in a supportive manner that preserves one’s dignity.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association (, there are several possible causes of incontinence. Medical conditions such as urinary tract infections, diabetes and physical disabilities can all contribute to incontinence. Medications can relax the bladder muscles and caffeinated drinks can act as diuretics. Always make sure that there is a clear path to the bathroom, use a night light if needed and choose clothing that is easy to remove.

If an accident does occur, be supportive and reassuring. Never make the person feel guilty and do not withhold fluids. Instead, try and identify when the accidents occur. Look for nonverbal cues such as pacing. Consider setting a regular schedule for using the bathroom and do not rush the person with dementia.

Grab bars or a raised toilet seat may be needed. Incontinence products are an absolute necessity in these situations. Depends/adult briefs, waterproof mattress covers and incontinence pads are all useful products. If the person with dementia spends a lot of time on the couch, consider a waterproof cover under the pillow cover.

Hygiene is important. If a family caregiver is having trouble managing incontinence with their loved one, consider hiring a home care agency to help. Support groups are also a good resource for getting tips. The Alzheimer’s Association provides additional information on their website ( The person with dementia may be embarrassed to admit they have a problem and it may help to have additional support.

Roslyn Paine, MSW, LSW
DignityFirst Health at Home Care Manager