Incontinence care is stressful for caregivers and seniors
Studies have shown that about 50% of older adults have some form of incontinence. It’s uncomfortable, messy, and causes embarrassment. It’s also a big source of stress and anxiety for the caregivers who clean up the messes.
We’ve rounded up 9 effective tips to help you reduce the stress of incontinence care.
1. Talk with their doctor
Incontinence is NOT a normal part of aging; it’s often caused by treatable medical conditions. When you see symptoms of incontinence, have your senior’s doctor examine them to rule out infections (like UTI) or other conditions that could be causing the problem.
2. Encourage fluids and watch out for certain foods and drinks
Did you know that many common foods and drinks can trigger incontinence? Check out this list of 20 things that can make incontinence worse.
There are many items on the list that we never would have suspected. These 5 were the most surprising:
- Drinking too little water
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Common fruits
To reduce incontinence accidents, have your older adult drink plenty of fluids and avoid those top trigger foods and drinks.
3. Use the bathroom on a schedule
Routine is great for older adults, especially those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s also a great way to get their bodily functions used to going at certain times.
Get into the habit of asking your senior to use the bathroom at regular intervals (even just to “try”) – for example, every 45 minutes or every 2 hours. Experiment to find the right timing and then stick with it. Soon, your older adult’s body will get used to the schedule and you’ll have fewer accidents.
4. Waterproof the bed and chairs
Part of the problem with incontinence is that the mess extends to wherever your senior was sitting or lying. Then you have the stress of trying to clean something that’s not easily cleanable – like a bed or couch.
Prevent the headaches from starting by waterproofing the areas where your older adult spends the most time. It often takes multiple layers to truly protect these surfaces, so try these top tips for waterproofing the bed and pillows.
5. Overcome embarrassment and use humor to diffuse anxiety in tense situations
The shame and embarrassment caused by incontinence are stressful for both your older adult and you. Treating it as a normal part of life will ease tension for both of you. 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, try using gentle humor to diffuse a tense situation. While still being respectful, find ways to see the silly side of things and laugh together. For example, you could say “This is the perfect reason to change into that pair of pants you like better!”
6. Have an incontinence kit on hand
Incontinence doesn’t mean you and your older adult can’t leave the house. Pack a tote bag with clean up essentials so you’ll 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
If clothing that’s hard to get on and off are causing accidents or making it hard for you to get your senior cleaned up afterward, consider updating their wardrobe.
Slacks with elastic waistbands are easier for your older adult to pull down so they can reach the toilet quickly, hopefully avoiding an accident. These are also easier for you when you’re helping to undress or dress them.
Specialty clothing from companies like Buck & Buck are designed with seniors in mind. They look stylish, but are easy to get on and off. And if your older adult has Alzheimer’s or dementia and you’re concerned with them taking off their clothes (or incontinence briefs) inappropriately, try the back-zip outfits. They look like a separate top and bottom, but it’s a one-piece that’s difficult to get 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 this air sanitizer and odor reducer to keep rooms fresh.
9. Get help from professionals
Some caregivers draw the line at incontinence care. That’s completely ok, everyone has different limits so don’t feel guilty. To get your older adult the help they need, consider hiring an in-home caregiver to help with personal hygiene and toileting.
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Heritage Creek Assisted Living