Incontinence and Dementia

Why do people with dementia become incontinent?

Unfortunately, it can be traumatic for all when a loved one becomes incontinent. However, sadly, it is a common symptom of dementia. Many find it is easier to manage if they are forewarned and know what to expect. So here are the symptoms of incontinence in dementia that you should be on the lookout for.

What is Incontinence?

Many on this blog already know what incontinence is but for any new visitors, incontinence occurs when you involuntarily leak urine or faeces or both. In the case of urinary incontinence, you may find you have a sudden urge to pee and need to do so frequently. As a result, you may not always reach the toilet in time. Whereas faecal incontinence is less common and can happen when you break wind or sometimes pass faeces without realising.

Why Can Dementia and Incontinence Come Hand in Hand?

When someone suffers from dementia there are many reasons why they can become incontinent, including age-related issues and others more specifically related to dementia. They can include the following:

Age-related Incontinence Issues:

  • Prostate gland issues, common in older men
  • Constipation, which can cause liquid faeces to slip around the impacted stool
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Medication side effects
  • Pre-existing conditions including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Dementia-related Incontinence Issues:

  • Difficulty communicating toileting needs
  • Forgetting toileting needs
  • Damage to nerve pathways in the brain that involve bladder and bowel control
  • Mobility problems preventing reaching the bathroom
  • Struggling to recognise or remember where the bathroom is

When May Incontinence Occur During Dementia?

It is impossible to say exactly when a person with dementia may experience incontinence. However, in most cases, it occurs when the illness has considerably progressed. Incontinence can occur at any point depending on pre-existing medical or health issues.

The Emotional Effects of Incontinence on Dementia Patients

The issue of incontinence can be incredibly distressing for someone with dementia. They might feel frustrated, angry or embarrassed with themselves. This is due to the fact that incontinence is seen as a loss of control – we are taught to know and recognise when we need to visit the bathroom at a young age. As a result, it is normal and understandable for the person with dementia to feel all of these emotions. Further, dementia patients may try to hide the fact they have had an accident by hiding damp or soiled clothing without telling anyone.

The Emotional Effects of Incontinence on Carers

It is likely that as a carer, especially for a family member, your first experience with incontinence will likely give you a shock. It can be very upsetting and you can feel just as embarrassed by it all when it first occurs. Further, many carers report feeling sad that their patient or loved one is suffering such an indignity. Other report feelings of frustrations, especially if they have asked their patient or loved one several times if they need the bathroom, only or an accident to happen anyway.

But it is important to remember that incontinence is not their fault. In most cases it is simply a side effect of the dementia, so patience is the key. Further, getting angry or upset will only create more of an issue, so keep calm. Try to overcome your own embarrassment or distaste by adopting a practical, matter-of-fact attitude. While it is not pleasant for you or your patient, it happens and it needs to be dealt with.

There are a lot of ways to help prevent accidents or to make them easier to cope with. Visit our store today to find out more about incontinence products that might help manage the problem.