If you have a parent with incontinence, you might feel like you are in uncharted territory. It is a challenge few expect to deal with as their parents age. But neither you, nor your parents, should feel embarrassed about this issue that many seniors will face for one reason or another. Many caregivers before you have found solutions that can help you and your parent on this journey. Remember that incontinence is an often treatable condition, so always speak with your parent’s doctor to uncover the underlying cause. In this article you will find tips on:
– Having “the talk” with your parent about incontinence
– The importance of speaking with your parent’s doctor about the issue
– Different products for management of incontinence
– Foods, drinks and medication that can worsen incontinence
– The importance of proper skincare for your parent with incontinence
– How to toilet regularly to reduce the incidence of bathroom accidents
– Tips on cleaning up after an accident
– The connection between incontinence and dangerous falls in seniors
Most of us have had an experience at some point or another that allows us to understand just how embarrassing incontinence can be. It’s not surprising then that a parent with incontinence may try to hide or deny bathroom accidents. To help you deal with this delicate topic, here are some helpful tips:
Be empathetic and reassuring
Reassure your parent that a majority of people go through this. Incontinence is common! According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 50.9% of persons aged 65 and over living at home reported having some form of incontinence. Offer to help your parent speak to their doctor and search for solutions for their incontinence. You can reassure your parent that liners and disposable underwear are available in a cloth-like material, so only the two of you will know the difference. Offer to get some samples just to try. Explain that wearing protective products can actually help them feel more confident in case of an accident.
Use some light humor
Incontinence is a common problem, so why not talk about it- and maybe even laugh about it a bit? If you can speak about it lightly and openly, you can help maintain your parent’s dignity and everyone will be more comfortable.
Call in help
If you have tried to talk casually to make your parent comfortable on this issue, but they still seem closed off, try bringing someone else in to help. A parent with incontinence might find it difficult to discuss this issue with their children. Perhaps a trusted friend or doctor* can help. Daughters may note that some men may feel more comfortable talking with another man about this sensitive topic. You can find some important information on helping men address their incontinence in this Huffington Post article. Remind your parent that incontinence is a common medical condition, so the doctor will be comfortable discussing it.
*More on the importance of keeping your parent’s doctor informed below.
Say it again: You’re not alone!
It is always good to reassure your parent that they are not alone in this issue- people of all ages experience incontinence challenges. Women often experience mild incontinence following pregnancy (even Kate Winslet!), and men who have had prostate surgery will often have these issues too. If you have a personal story to share, go for it. When shopping for incontinence supplies, you can point out the huge quantity of products in the incontinence aisle as an example of how many people are using them. Ask your parent if they have ever noticed someone wearing disposable underwear or liners. Probably not, so why would someone else notice theirs?
What’s in a word? With incontinence, the words you use can preserve a sense of dignity! Using the words “briefs”, “disposable underwear”, “liners”, “shields”, or “throw-away underwear” can make the conversation much more relaxed.
Plant some samples
Make it easy to choose protective liners and underwear by planting them in convenient areas. Fold some cloth-like disposable underwear and leave them in an underwear drawer, and in the bathroom. Place a bucket with a lid in the restroom for disposal. Remember that you can disable the flushing handle of the toilet to prevent clogging if you find this is an issue.
Once you’ve had the talk and your parent is ready to take on their incontinence issue, here are some solutions to help you work together to overcome or control bathroom accidents.
First: Speak to the doctor
Often times incontinence is caused by an underlying condition that can be managed, or is temporary! That is why it is so important to speak with your parent’s doctor. A doctor will help you to better understand why your parent is having this issue, and to learn what solutions are available. See a list of conditions that may cause incontinence in our article “Understanding the diagnoses behind incontinence”.
Establishing a regular toilet schedule can decrease the incidence of accidents, making your parent with incontinence feel happier and more secure. If your parent has dementia, take them to the restroom at intervals even if they say they don’t need to go. Check out this article on training the bladder. Remember- men can do Kegel exercises too!
Once you have discussed your parent’s treatment with their doctor, the doctor should set a treatment plan. Sometimes the doctor will recommend incontinence products. There are a variety of protective disposable products to choose from:
Liners, pads, and shields can be used for light to moderate leaks. For full accidents, a disposable brief will provide better protection.
Mattress and chair protection
“Chux” or “bedpads” are disposable squares that can be placed on the bed, chairs, in the cars, or anywhere else to protect surfaces from leaks.
Washable waterproof mattress protectors are large sheets that cover the mattress. Mattress protectors and bedpads can be placed under the bedsheets for comfort. If soiled, the sheets and mattress protector can be washed, and bedpads can be thrown in the trash.
A bedside commode is small toilet with hand rails that can be placed near the bed of a parent with limited mobility, who may have trouble making it to the restroom. There are a variety of tips available online for odor control with a commode, including adding a few capfuls of mouthwash after cleaning.
Skin care is very important in older adults with incontinence issues, as waste left on the skin for extended periods of time can cause irritation, skin breakdown (such as adult diaper rash- IAD), and urinary tract infections. If you have a parent with incontinence, remember the three steps of skin preservation: Cleanse, Moisturize, and Protect. Use a pH-balanced cleanser, a vitamin-packed moisturizer, a gentle touch, and apply a barrier cream as a final step. The barrier cream acts like a barrier between the skin and the environment around it, preventing the breakdown of sensitive skin. Make sure they are changing their products regularly!
Fluid intake, Diet and Medications
Your diet can have a large impact on frequency of urination. Some medications will also increase the need to go, including: Alpha-blockers; brand names Cardura, Minipress, Hytrin; generic names doxazosin mesylate, prazosin hydrochloride, terazosin hydrochloride according to Caring.com.
Read this handy article to understand how your diet affects bladder control:
There are several products that can be used to clean fabrics after an accident, including pet stain removers, Oxyclean, and dilutions of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Here’s a handy guide from HowToCleanThings.com.
Did you know that incontinence is one of the most common causes of falls in older adults? A parent with incontinence is often rushing to the bathroom during a sudden urge to go, and in their rush they can trip and fall. Make sure there is a clear path to the restroom, and that it is well lit for night time visits. Wearing disposable incontinence garments may protect your parent from potential falls as well as bathroom accidents.
Sources for caring for a parent with incontinence: