How to Manage Incontinence for Someone with Dementia

Kiera Powell, R.N.

Verified by Kiera Powell, R.N. and written by Lauren Caggiano on Mon Feb 13 2023.

Medically Verified

How to Manage Incontinence for Someone with Dementia

For someone with dementia, toileting can be a challenge. Many steps can be involved, and they may need help with one or more. For instance, dementia may make it difficult to get out of bed in the middle of the night— without assistance — to use the toilet. And once there, remembering how to remove clothing can become an obstacle.

Incontinence is a reality for many older Americans living with dementia. According to Healthline, about 60 to 70 percent of people with Alzheimer’s develop incontinence. Although it typically occurs in this disease's middle or late stages, every person’s situation is unique. The following tips can help caregivers of loved ones with dementia who might have trouble with toileting. 

What You’ll Need

Several types of products can help your loved one with dementia manage incontinence. Among them:

Hear it from a caregiver

“My purchase of your Prevail Wipes proved to be an excellent choice. I like the size of the wipes, the thinness of them, the feel of them, and the job they help me do to make it a breeze. I will be ordering them again.”

Steps to Manage Incontinence for Someone with Dementia

Step 1: Set your loved one up for success

They might need assistance like a bed rail to get in and out of bed. You also might want to invest in assistive devices like a walker to help them navigate the walk to and from the bathroom. 

Experts also recommend putting a sign next to the bathroom indicating its location. This visual guide can help people with dementia because they might not always recognize their surroundings. With that in mind, leave the door open and the lights on. Motion-detecting lights can help them feel more at ease when finding their way at night. Other ways to help your loved one with dementia include: 

  • Decreasing clutter to reduce distraction

  • Labeling the toilet 

  • Adding rails around the toilet

  • Placing incontinence products right next to the toilet so they’re top of mind

Step 2: Create a toileting schedule 

A routine can offer a sense of comfort for those with dementia. For example, a toileting schedule is ideal for those who can communicate when they need to go. A schedule may also be helpful for people who might be at risk of failing. 

Whatever the reason, it’s essential to take them to the bathroom every 2-3 hours, even if they don’t have a sense of urgency. This way, you can reduce the chance of accidents, and they can get in the habit of using the toilet regularly. Setting an alarm on your phone can be a seamless way to set a reminder to nudge them to use the bathroom. 

Step 3: Be patient 

Dementia may cause your loved one to become easily confused and frustrated. Their behavior can sometimes seem erratic, and you might notice your loved one attempting to throw incontinence products down the toilet. This can happen for a few reasons. For example, they’re new to the experience of wearing adult diapers. They might feel uncomfortable or foreign, especially for men. Women usually find the transition easier, as they’ve become accustomed to using feminine hygiene products. 

Beyond the comfort factor, wearing adult diapers may make them feel embarrassed. They might be ashamed and don’t want people to know they wear them, or they may feel like they’ve lost control of bodily functions. Last, dementia-related confusion can be to blame. 

Regardless of the reason, if you encounter your loved one discarding these products, take a step back and remind yourself they didn’t act out of spite. After you regroup, think about how you can empower them to use the toilet. Experts recommend putting a sign on the trash indicating the product should be placed inside. Make sure you’re consistent in terminology. For instance, if you use the term “diaper,” be consistent in your visual aids.

Need more information?

You can learn more about how incontinence and dementia using the following resources. Also, remember that you can contact Carewell’s caregiving specialists 24/7 for support at (800) 696-CARE. We love helping caregivers support their loved ones!

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Lauren Caggiano
Lauren Caggiano

Lauren Caggiano is an Indiana-based copywriter/editor, ACE certified personal trainer and ACE certified health coach. She has a passion for health and wellness and helping people live fuller and richer lives.