Bladder and bowel control problems in Alzheimer's and other dementias

Loss of bladder and bowel control (incontinence) can sometimes result from Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Several strategies may help you deal with this problem:

  • Encourage the person to use the bathroom on a regular schedule, such as every 2 hours.
  • Restrict liquids a few hours before bedtime.
  • If the person has trouble remembering where the bathroom is, show him or her the way and mark the bathroom and toilet clearly with signs ("Bathroom," "Toilet"). Use pictures when the person can no longer understand words.
  • Remove or cover objects the person may mistake for the toilet.
  • Consider using absorbent pads or briefs such as Attends or Depends. To avoid sores, make sure the skin under these undergarments stays clean and dry.
  • Remember that a person with dementia cannot control this problem. In some cases, he or she may be aware of the problem and feel embarrassed or ashamed about it.

If incontinence has just recently become a problem, make sure the person doesn't have another medical condition that is causing it, such as a urinary tract infection.

Last Updated: November 10, 2008

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