Over 24 million people are living with dementia worldwide. Affecting the brain and resulting in a serious loss of cognitive ability, dementia deteriorates memory, attention, language and problem solving. The longer people live with dementia, the more likely they will become reliant on their caregiver for daily necessities. The simplest of tasks can become impossible for someone with dementia to undertake on their own, including continence.
Incontinence often affects those who have dementia. Bodily functions can become completely uncontrollable, causing both the patient and the caregiver to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.
Seeking Treatment for Incontinence
Doctors can typically discern why their patient is experiencing incontinence. One possibility is urge incontinence, a condition that occurs when an individual’s body does not give them ample warning that they need to use the bathroom, leading to urine leakage. This type of incontinence is very common in the elderly and is often a sign of bladder or kidney infection. Urge incontinence can be treated with antibiotics. However, if your loved one’s incontinence is not caused by an infection, there are other steps caregivers can take.
It is important to bring a description of how your loved one’s incontinence is affecting their lifestyle to their doctor. Monitor their incontinence by jotting down an overview of their daily routine. The following questions are likely to be addressed by the doctor:
1. How much water does your loved one drink daily?
2. What does your loved one’s diet consist of?
3. When did the incontinence begin?
4. How many episodes does your loved one have per day and what is the time frame?
5. Does your loved one have any control over urination?
6. Is the incontinence more prevalent during the day or night?
7. Does your loved one experience any discomfort when he or she has the urge to urinate?
Options for Treatment
Based on the severity of the condition, and whether it is caused by an underlying medical condition, incontinence can be treated by antibiotics or surgical intervention. If your loved one’s incontinence is not caused by a medical condition however, other medications can be given to treat the bladder’s urge to urinate.
Non-medical options for Treatment
Replacing clothing that has complex closures like buttons and snaps with velcro and zippers may be a helpful fix if your loved one is aware of their incontinence and would like more control over their environment. By altering your loved one’s clothing, he or she may be able to become more independent and gain more privacy.
It may also be helpful to modify the home or add portable toilet chairs to the rooms in which your loved one spends most of his or her time. While this method is relatively easy to implement, individuals with dementia may not understand why the layout of the room is being altered, or what the portable chair is intended for.
If your loved one is suffering from dementia, it is helpful to know that incontinence may be an inevitable part of their cognitive decline. Incontinence can be extremely frustrating for both the caregiver and the patient, but consulting with a medical professional early on can help reduce some of the embarrassment and pain. The sooner incontinence is addressed, the sooner the caregiver and patient can explore their options and reduce their frustration.