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Incontinence in Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients

Urinary incontinence is common in patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The severity of their condition may range from mild leaks to a complete loss of bladder control. At times, it may refer to unintentional bowel movements, but this is not as common.

Nearly 70% of patients with dementia develop incontinence. If you’re the caregiver or loved one to a patient with dementia, understanding the condition will help you give the best care and support possible.

Because of the way the brain changes, the ability to hold urine weakens over time. Moreover, the ability to get to the bathroom on time becomes increasingly difficult. 

PeapodMats help patients and their caregivers handle incontinence during the day or night. Rather than feel shame, discomfort, and embarrassment, our leakproof mats quickly absorb liquids, allowing patients to stay dry and comfortable.



What is incontinence?

Incontinence is the unintentional leakage of urine from the bladder. There are different types of incontinence in adults, including an overactive bladder, stress incontinence, and overflow incontinence. Incontinence may happen during the day or night, and in some cases, for some patients, both.

As we mentioned above, incontinence in Alzheimer's and dementia patients can range in severity, from occasional small leaks to unintentional urination.

In this post, we share a few reasons for incontinence in adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia, as well as a few strategies to cope with bedwetting and incontinence.

Why does incontinence develop in patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s?

It’s not uncommon for a patient with Alzheimer’s or Dementia to experience bedwetting or frequent urination. Because of the way the brain changes, the ability to hold urine weakens over time. Moreover, the ability to get to the bathroom on time becomes increasingly difficult. 

Unfortunately, a patient with dementia or Alzheimer’s may either have difficulty using the toilet or forget to do so.

For some patients, incontinence develops because of a breakdown in the “communication” between the brain and the bladder. Sadly, an individual might not recognize the sensation of a full bladder as a signal to urinate.

Mobility Issues

Others may sense that they need to urinate but have difficulty getting to the toilet in time, sometimes because of slow reaction times and sometimes because of difficulty with mobility.

Another common barrier to using the washroom in time may be forgetting or having difficulty with unfastening clothing or lifting the toilet seat.

Communication or Confusion

Someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s may struggle to use the toilet due to confusion. Their spatial surroundings could be confusing for them, and they may pee in inappropriate places, like a wastepaper basket or near the bathtub instead of the toilet.

If the patient is in the presence of a caregiver, it could be that they have a hard time effectively understanding or communicating their need, even though they sense that it’s time to use the toilet. 

As a caregiver to someone who frequently wets during the day, set a timer at fixed intervals to remind or assist them in using the bathroom.

However, don’t be discouraged if they don’t understand your prompt – it’s common amongst patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It may be confusing for them to be told what to do, especially if they have difficulty remembering people.

Depression amongst patients could also cause incontinence since depression may lead to a lack of motivation or an inability to see the “issue” clearly.

Lastly, if they refuse to allow you, the caregiver, in the bathroom with them, this could be due to shame, embarrassment, or again, confusion. Don’t be discouraged. This is a typical response among patients with Alzheimer’s.



Indirect causes of incontinence in Alzheimer’s patients


Another reason patients with Alzheimer’s experience incontinence is simply because of aging. 

With aging, the pelvic floor muscles that help hold urine begin to weaken.

It’s also common for older individuals to have a higher risk of incontinence as a side effect of the medication they’re taking.

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

When bacteria gets into the urethra, it can lead to infection of the bladder or kidneys. Symptoms may include sudden urges to urinate, pain or a burning sensation while peeing, or a fever.

Patients with dementia have a higher risk of developing UTIs simply because caring for and cleaning them becomes more difficult.

UTIs can be treated with antibiotics. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from a UTI, please speak with their doctor.



Helping Alzheimer’s patients maintain their bladder health

From lifestyle to dietary adjustments, there are things you can do to help prevent and manage incontinence for your loved ones.

Dietary considerations

Ensure the patient limits:

  • Caffeine
  • Carbonation
  • Spicy foods
  • Acidic foods

Ensure they get enough:

  • Dietary fibre
  • Exercise
  • Water, spaced out regularly throughout the day


There are a few things you can do around the house or in your caregiving to help them use the bathroom more regularly and prevent wetting. 

Some of these changes center around helping them identify and use the toilet with ease, including:

  • Removing obstacles on the most common paths taken to the bathroom
  • Leaving the bathroom door open at all times
  • If stairs are a barrier, having the lounge area on the same floor as the bathroom
  • Ensuring the toilet is at a comfortable height, the lighting is good, and if possible, there’s a grab bar for them to hold onto
  • Helping them unfasten their clothing once they’re at the toilet

Whether it’s day or night, leakproof mats help protect the furniture where they’re sitting, lounging, or sleeping. This is an excellent solution to wetting, both daytime and at night, as these mats will collect all the urine and are easy to throw in the washer and dryer.

For outdoor activities, make sure to plan your travel stops around bathrooms and encourage them to use the bathroom before leaving one place to get to the next. If you’re driving or the patient is in a wheelchair, our small PeapodMats are the perfect size to put down on the seats. They are discreet and are excellent for excursions to restaurants, coffee shops, or theatres – anywhere that they might be sitting for an extended period.

Regardless of whether you’re home or out and about, set a timer and remind them to use the bathroom at fixed intervals. Doing so will help prevent wetting before it happens.



When accidents happen

Remember to be respectful, patient, and empathetic. Incontinence can’t be helped and can be shameful or upsetting for some patients. Continue to communicate clearly and with understanding, even if you feel like the patient isn’t listening to you.

And remember to wash your hands before and after you help them with the toilet, their clothing or undergarments, and their bedwetting mats.

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