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Incontinence Care: 9 Tips for Caregivers

9 top tips to reduce the stress and mess of incontinence care for seniors

Incontinence is stressful for seniors and caregivers

Studies have shown that about 50% of older adults have some form of incontinence. For many, it can be uncomfortable, messy, or embarrassing.

It can also be a major source of stress for caregivers who try to minimize accidents and clean up the messes.

To reduce stress and mess for both seniors and caregivers, we share 9 helpful incontinence care tips.


1. Talk with their doctor

Despite popular misconceptions, incontinence isn’t a normal part of aging. It’s often caused by common and treatable medical conditions.

If you notice ongoing signs of incontinence, take your older adult to the doctor for a thorough examination to figure out if they have an infection (like a UTI) or other treatable condition.

2. Watch out for certain foods and drinks

Did you know that many common foods and drinks can trigger incontinence? Many of these triggers and bladder irritants are things that we’d never think of. 

Included on Mayo Clinic’s list are: 

  1. Too little fluids

  2. Too much fluids

  3. Coffee, tea, and carbonated drinks – with and without caffeine

  4. Certain acidic fruits, like oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes, and acidic fruit juices

  5. Spicy foods

  6. Alcohol

  7. Chocolate

  8. Tomatoes and tomato-based products – even ketchup

  9. Sugar, honey, and artificial sweeteners

To manage their incontinence, encourage your older adult to drink an adequate amount of fluids and minimize trigger foods and drinks.

Not everyone’s bladder will be sensitive to the same trigger foods or drinks.

If many of these items are part of your older adult’s regular diet, try removing or reducing one item at a time to try to improve their incontinence symptoms.

3. Stick to a bathroom schedule

A regular daily routine is helpful for older adults, especially those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s also a good way to get their bodily functions accustomed to going at certain times.

Create a bathroom schedule by asking your older adult to use the toilet at regular intervals (even just to “try”).

You could start with asking them to go every 1 or 2 hours. Experiment to find the timing that works best for their body – and then stick to it. 

Soon, your older adult’s body will get used to the schedule, reducing the chances of having an accident.

4. Waterproof the mattress, sofa, and chairs

Cleaning up is a big issue in incontinence care. Accidents leave a smelly mess on your older adult’s clothes as well as on furniture.

Clothes and bedding can be thrown into the washing machine. But it’s understandably stressful and tiring to try to clean and deodorize something that’s not easily cleanable, like a mattress or easy chair.

To get ahead of the problem and make cleanup easier, waterproof the furniture that your older adult uses the most.

Leaks are common so it typically takes multiple layers to truly protect these surfaces. Try these top tips for waterproofing their bed and pillows.

And for couches and easy chairs, spray with a fabric protector and then layer with waterproof sofa covers, seat protectors, or extra large absorbent bed pads.


5. Use humor kindly to diffuse anxiety and embarrassment

The shame and embarrassment that incontinence can cause are stressful for both your older adult and you. 

Treating it as a normal part of life helps to ease the tension. Reassure them that it’s ok and take a matter-of-fact approach to cleanup.

You could say “Don’t worry, it happens to a lot of people. Let me help you clean up and change into some clean, comfy clothes.”

After an accident, gentle humor also helps to diffuse a tense situation. While still being respectful, find ways to see the silly side of things and encourage laughter.

For example, you could say with a smile, “Now we’ve got the perfect excuse to change into your blue pants. Those are one of your favorite pairs!”

6. Have an incontinence care kit on hand

Incontinence doesn’t mean that you and your older adult can’t leave the house. 

Pack a tote bag with clean-up essentials so you’ll always be prepared in case of an accident.

Include extra incontinence briefs or pads, personal cleansing wipes, and a change of clothes and socks.

7. Choose clothing that’s easy to change and launder

To reduce accidents and make incontinence care easier, it might be time for a wardrobe update.

Clothing that’s tough to get on and off could be causing accidents. They also make it difficult to get cleaned up afterward.

For example, pants with an elastic waistband are quicker and easier to pull down than pants with a regular zip fly. That will help your older adult get to the toilet quickly and hopefully avoid an accident.

Plus, elastic waistbands are much easier to manage if you’re helping to undress or dress them.

Many clothing items found at major retailer stores will work. Try to avoid clothes with multiple fastenings (no button-fly pants!), difficult clasps, tricky zippers, or tight openings.

And depending on your older adult’s needs, adaptive clothing that’s specifically designed for easy access might work even better. As a bonus, many of today’s adaptive clothing designs are stylish and discreet as well as easy to get on and off. 

If your older adult has Alzheimer’s or dementia and they tend to inappropriately take off their clothes or incontinence briefs, try a back-zip jumpsuit like these from Silvert’s or these from Buck & Buck

They look like a separate top and bottom, but are actually a one-piece jumpsuit that are tough to take off without help.

8. Get rid of lingering odors

Another thing about incontinence that drives caregivers crazy is the lingering odor.

Many experienced caregivers swear by OdoBan to disinfect and eliminate odor or an air purifier to help rooms smell fresh.

9. Get help from professionals

For a variety of reasons, a caregiver might not be able to provide incontinence care on their own or in a home setting.

In that case, consider hiring an in-home caregiver to help with personal hygiene and toileting. Or, consider moving them to a care community that provides a higher level of care.

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team Image: Heritage Creek Assisted Living

This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.


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