Dementia and Bowel Incontinence

Managing dementia and bowel incontinence

There is a direct link between dementia and bowel incontinence. A person with dementia is much more likely to have accidents, suffer from incontinence and generally have more difficulties using the toilet.

Often these problems get worse as the condition progresses. Unfortunately, incontinence is not a topic that people talk easily about – but we do! Here we bring you the full low-down on dementia and bowel incontinence plus tips and advice for you to try….

Dementia and Bowel Incontinence

Dementia and Bowel Incontinence

What is the link between dementia and bowel incontinence?

Sometimes incontinence develops in dementia patients because the messages between the brain and bladder and bowel are not working properly or can be triggered by a medical problem such as urinary tract infection (UTI), constipation or – for men – prostate problems.

Sometimes bowel incontinence can be caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Certain medications for dementia can also trigger bowel incontinence.

What is incontinence?

Incontinence is the term given to when a person does not make it to the toilet in time and experiences a leakage of urine (pee) or faeces (poo). If they are having problems with both, this is described as ‘double incontinence. Urinary incontinence is the most common kind.
When either occurs, it can be very upsetting for dementia patients.

According to Healthline-
‘About 50% of people living with dementia have urinary incontinence. Specifically 60-70% of people with Alzheimer’s disease develop this condition. In addition, 30-50% of nursing home residents living with dementia or memory problems also have faecal incontinence’.

What are the different types of incontinence?

Urinary incontinence

Coping with incontinence accidents with dementia patientsThis is the most common type of incontinence and ranges from small, occasional leaks to continuing to pee after leaving the toilet or the total emptying of the bladder away from the toilet..

People with dementia often develop an over-active bladder. They will suddenly feel that their bladder is full and will have an urgency to go to the toilet. They will also want to visit the toilet much more often than they did in the past.

Some dementia patients do suffer from stress incontinence which can cause small, regular leaks.

Faecal incontinence

Again, this type of incontinence ranges from a small leakage of poo to having no control over the emptying of the entire bladder.

This situation is not only distressing for the dementia patient but can be very difficult for their carers to deal with too.

Dementia and bowel incontinence – Why does it develop?

As well as the medical reasons given above, incontinence can develop in a dementia patients for the following reasons too:

  • Faecal incontinence and dementiaThey may not recognise the sensation of needing the toilet in adequate time.
  • As well as not recognising the sensation, they may not be able to alert their carer in time to reach the toilet.
  • If they have mobility problems, the dementia patient may not reach the toilet in time.
  • They may not understand a prompt that it is time to visit the toilet.
  • Dementia patients often resist help to use the toilet.
  • They get confused when looking for the toilet.
  • They can feel embarrassed because they have already had an accident.

How can you ease the situation?

There are ways that help minimise the problems of incontinence in dementia patients.

The most important point to remember is that you need to include toilet visits into your routine, but you do need to ask your loved one sensitively if they need the toilet regularly – every two hours.

Also watch for any signs that they might need the toilet. It could be an advantage to install a reminder for you both on your smartphone.

Keep bladder and bowels working well

  • Encourage your loved one to drink plenty– eight glasses a day is the recommended amount. If they are not drinking enough they will be prone to constipation. If they have an overactive bladder, avoid, coffee, tea and alcohol. Offer water, herbal teas and fresh fruit juices diluted 50/ 50 with water as these will be more soothing.
  • Get daily exercise together – walking or swimming are both good and will ensure that your loved one’s bowels work well.
  • Built toilet breaks at certain times into your daily routine and when you go out together, make sure you know in advance where toilets are located.
  • If your loved one is constipated, gentle laxatives can help and gently massaging their stomach can ease discomfort.

Make your toilet dementia-friendly

Making the toilet dementia friendlyEven if you have been living where you are for a number of years, it is important to make the toilet easily identifiable and easy to use for your loved one.

  • Make the toilet easy to spot with a sign on the door with a picture at eye level. If there are several of you in the house, install a simple sign with red and green sides to show when the toilet is free or occupied.
  • Ensure that it is easy to reach the toilet – move furniture out of the way and ensure the area is well lit.
  • Consider investing in a coloured toilet seat so that it is easy for your loved one to recognise. Invest in a raised toilet seat if it will be easier to use and fix some handrails.
  • Disable the door lock so that your loved one cannot accidentality lock themselves in the toilet.
  • Avoid confusion with mirrors. Your loved one may not recognise their reflection in the mirror and think there is already someone using the toilet.

And for night-time use too….

  • Install good lighting from the bedroom to the toilet that is triggered by motion sensors.
  • If night-time use of the toilet becomes tricky, consider using a commode close to the bed with night lighting.

How best to cope with dementia and bowel incontinence accidents

urinary incontinence and dementiaThis is a difficult situation for you both to deal with. Your loved one will feel that they are not in control of their body and that they are losing their dignity.

Many dementia patients find it difficult to accept help with such a private part of their lives.

Needless to say, how your loved one reacts to an accident can vary and they may find it very upsetting.

Be understanding and practical and add a little humour if you think it will help to ease their embarrassment. Having nice easy pull on trousers and shorts with elasticated waists will help too.

Do not be negative in any way- the accident was totally unintentional. If you find it hard to cope with the situation, talk with your GP.

Incontinence and the support you give your loved one will change your relationship and it will become stronger – if you do not let it get in the way.

Personal hygiene is very important

Keep bladder and bowels working wellFollowing an accident, it is important that your loved one cleans themselves properly and you may well need to help them. Remind them gently to wash their hands well.

You may well find that baby wipes are easy and effective to use and these will help prevent skin irritations and fungal infections. Pat the skin dry gently after use with toilet tissue.

Alternatively, wash the wet or soiled area with soap and warm water and pat the skin dry with a soft towel before your loved ones puts on fresh clothes.

If incontinence is becoming an issue, there are some excellent incontinence briefs on the market that contain a highly absorbent pad.

Both day time and night time pads are available and manufacturers have started producing attractive ones for ladies in different colours and patterns.

Re-usable briefs are also available and these are machine washed after each wearing .

If your loved one prefers to wear their own underwear, absorbent pads that slip inside panties are good and if you loved one has stress incontinence, you mat well find that panty liners are adequate.

Final Thoughts – Dementia and Bowel Incontinence

Incontinence usually develops in middle to late stage dementia, but this does vary from one person to the next. If you are concerned that your loved one is becoming incontinent, a visit to your GP will be reassuring as they can assess what the underlying cause is.

Never struggle in silence with dementia and bowel incontinence, there are different health professionals you can approach for help and some excellent products on the market that will make the situation easier to handle.

Dementia And Incontinence [Causes & Treatment]

dementia and incontinence

How closely related are dementia and incontinence? Are people with dementia at a higher risk of experiencing toilet problems?

You will learn it all through this extensive article that covers causes, treatment and provides tips.

What is Dementia? A Quick Overview

Dementia is a common affliction characterized by a group of conditions related to brain impairment.

A person experiencing dementia experiences a host of conditions that coincide directly to the loss of memory and cognitive judgment.

A statistic from the CDC indicates the condition of dementia affects as much as 5.8 million Americans.

Dementia is caused by the degeneration of the cerebral cortex region of the brain. This occurs by head injury, stroke, brain tumors, and other factors not yet fully understood.

Of note: Alzheimer’s Disease is noted to be responsible for 60-70% of dementia in adults.

Common traits and symptoms for adults diagnosed with dementia include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Limited desire or ability to socialize with others
  • Trouble speaking
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks and responsibilities
  • Compromised muscular function
  • Depression
  • Mood Swings and/or Anger
  • Disorientation or Confusion

Is it Common for Patients to Experience Incontinence?

is it common for patients to experience incontinence
Yes. Patients with dementia will typically have more issues with incontinence compared with someone of the same age.

The main reason is that they tend to have trouble connecting with the impulses to go to the bathroom.

There are many unknowns about the exact scientific relationship between dementia and incontinence.

Is There a Cure for Dementia?

Researchers are searching for answers for cures, new treatment options, and more advanced knowledge of these conditions and more.

To date, there are many clinical trials underway and progress is being made. We have seen many advancements in the way of diagnostic and imaging technology in addition to identifying important biomarkers.

Select Incontinence Products

ProductFeaturesAvailable on Amazon
Prevail Air Plus Adult DiaperPrevail Air plus Daily BriefSoft & breathable
Ultimate absorbency
Pack of 4 (18 count)
Night & day
Skin smart
Omni-odor guard
Wellness BriefWellness Superio Series BriefsBrand: Unique WellnessFully Absorb up to 2.6L
Wide absorbent core
Resealable landing zone for easy adjustment
White with a nylon based crinkle-free plastic
Value for money
Stays dry for 8+ hours
Award winner/ Featured on Discovery Channel
One Piece Waterproof Snap-on Brief Re-usableOne Piece Waterproof Snap-on Diaper Cover BriefBrand: SalkLightweight
Softness of cloth
100% waterproof
Polyester/urethane outer
Brushed polyester inner
Super-absorbent pad
3-ply inner layer
Waterproof outer layer
SOSecure Containment Swim BriefSOSecure Containment Swim BriefBrand: Discovery Trekking Outfitters Discreet Swimming Undergarment
Durable Polyurethane Fabric
Fleece Lining
Hook and Loop Closure (Easy)
Elastic Waist & Legs
Machine Washable
Latex Free
Prevail Overnight Bladder Control PadsPrevail Overnight Bladder Control PadsBrand: First QualityFor Women
Dri-Fit cotton enhanced
QUICK WICK Layer and cotton
Odor Guard
Depend Men GuardsDepend Men GuardsBrand: Kimberly ClarkAdhesive strips to hold guard in place
Individually wrapped
Discreet- pocket-sized pouch
Easy carrying and disposal
Contoured design
Cup-shaped protection for men
One size fits most
Medline Incontinence Bed PadsMedline Incontinence Bed PadsUnderpads
50 count
Heavy absorbancy
Polypropylene backing (protects against leakage & resists melting)
Ideal for overnight use
Inspire Washable and Reusable Incontinence Chair or Bed PadsInspire Washable and Reusable Incontinence Chair or Bed PadsWashable/reusable
Solves incontinence problems
Safely absorbs & lock in liquids
Soft & comfortable
Attends Bariatric 2X-Large UnderwearBariatric 2X-Large UnderwearBrand: AttendsImproved side panels (better comfort & fit)
Acquisition layer
Super absorbent polymer
Tear-away sides (easy removal)
Looks & feels like regular underwear
Bag of 12
Depend Mens Maximum Absorbency UnderwearDepend Mens Maximum Absorbency UnderwearBrand: Kimberly ClarkOutstanding protection
Improved underwear-like fit
Brief-like leg opening
Heavy incontinence
Soft, quiet, breathable material
Conforms to the body
Washable Absorbent Urine Incontinence Underwear for WomenAIRCUTE Washable Absorbent Urine Incontinence Underwear for Women6 layers
High waist
Absorbent & leakproof
Prevail Adult WashclothPrevail Adult WashclothBrand: First Quality
Super strong & soft fabric (12" x 8")
Stay-open & easy-close lid
Press 'N' Pull lid
Super strong soft fabric
Aloe & lanolin
Lid closes tightly

Why Are Dementia and Incontinence Related?

why are dementia and incontinence related
As a standalone issue, incontinence is a difficult condition. Incontinence is classically defined as the inability to control one’s urination or bowel movements.

The severity of causes of incontinence vary from person to person and there could be more than one contributing factor or causes.

Some of the more common reasons for incontinence stem directly from one or more medical conditions such as age-related stress incontinence paired with limited mobility.

Dementia tends to complicate incontinence factors in a myriad of ways:

  • It becomes difficult to identify the urges to go to the bathroom.
  • Sometimes there may be issues remembering the location of a bathroom.
  • They may be physically unable to reach the restroom in time.
  • There may be the inability to control the muscular control needed for voluntary bowel movements and urination.

Are There Any Treatment Options for Dementia Patients Suffering from Incontinence?

are there any treatment options for dementia patients suffering from incontinence
The first thing to do would be to determine as best you can the type of incontinence that is being experienced.

Your doctor should be able to help assist with any underlying medical issues that might be a factor.

This could translate to a change in medications or even addressing a possible urinary tract infection.

An example of possible medical interventions could be as simple as recommending pelvic floor exercises to undergo corrective surgery.

You may also find that you or your loved one qualifies for use of a medical device or procedure designed to strengthen pelvic floor muscles and to retrain the bladder.

These represent some of the more modern methods of managing bladder control. These and other treatment options are best explored with the help of your personal physician.

How Do You Manage Incontinence in Dementia Patients?

how do you manage incontinence in dementia patients
Managing incontinence is best achieved with a plan and a simple level of preparedness.

Making sure the caregiver is paired with adequate resources, preferences, and supplies can help shape the experience in a new light.

The key to effectively managing incontinence lies in maintaining one’s dignity and health intact in every possible way.

Daily Care

daily care for incontinence
There are many things you can do to help offset the helplessness that accompanies incontinence.

  • Keep a clear course or route to the bathroom. Make it as easy as possible.
  • Eliminate bladder aggravating foods and drinks such as coffee, alcohol, soda, or teas.
  • Choose clothing that makes getting the bathroom easier and is easily removed or changed.
  • Create a routine for taking medications and eating to help facilitate predictable bowel patterns.
  • Create a plan for keeping clean. Think out of the box and consider the installation of shower tools, benches, or other modifications if you are in a caregiver role.
  • Get creative. An example might be to set timers to help remind patients to use the bathroom.
  • Don’t’ forget about privacy – Help your loved one keep his or her dignity.

Planning for Trips

dementia incontinence planning for trips
Plan accordingly for trips away from the comfort of one’s home.

Consider having a to-go bag complete and ready with a change of clothing, undergarments, and care products and keeping it in the car always.

Good practices might be assessing the need for extra stops along the way, or simply knowing the layout of a place ahead of time for an easy bathroom location.

These simple ideas may prevent an accident and help simplify visits to the doctor or even marketplaces.

Tip: Understand ahead of time what restroom facilities are available to you – especially in the cases of staying in a hotel or event location.

Don’t be afraid to call ahead and ask for any modifications that may make your stay easier.

Services and Resources

dementia incontinence services and resources
Finding support for yourself if you are a caregiver and your loved one should be a priority.

Many aren’t designed to navigate these waters alone. The CDC estimates that there are 25% of adults in the U.S. that are providing care to a loved one.

There are specialty organizations and hospital affiliates designed to assist with affordable incontinence supplies, counseling, and in some cases in-home care visits.

To learn more about the resources available to you, contact your care provider or visit informative websites like this one.

How Do You Overcome the Emotional Obstacles Associated with Incontinence and Dementia?

how do you overcome the emotional obstacles associated with incontinence and dementia
It goes without saying, the level of embarrassment felt by someone with incontinence is debilitating. Left unchecked, these emotions can quickly escalate to severe depression.

Encourage dialogue and healthy emotional outlets – a little compassion can go a long way.

Consider finding avenues to maintain discreet cleaning, and personalizing care options.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the fit of personal care products.

Do your best to honor personal preferences regarding incontinent product choices.

dementia incontinence factors

Never underestimate the humanity and value of being comfortable and feeling your best in the face of unpleasant circumstances.

It could be the one thing that makes the experience of embarrassing incontinent situations bearable.


Living with incontinent associated dementia isn’t easy.

However, it can be managed effectively with knowledge and a little understanding.

Make your physician your partner in creating a personalized healthcare strategy. It might be one of the best things you can do aside from staying positive.

Most importantly, stay connected with what is trending for available treatment options.

Remember communication, patience, and quality care are the hallmark vehicles to effectively managing complications of incontinence due to dementia.

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