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.

 

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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: 

  • Too little fluids
  • Too much fluids
  • Coffee, tea, and carbonated drinks – with and without caffeine
  • Certain acidic fruits, like oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes, and acidic fruit juices
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based products – even ketchup
  • 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.

 

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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 sanitizer and odor reducer to keep rooms smelling 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.


16 Comments

  • Reply September 18, 2021

    EJ Canary

    Be aware that spray on chemicals to waterproof or resist stains on furniture can be extremely toxic to at least 1/3 of the population who are sensitive. On my couch I use re-useable waterproof pet pads, then a beach towel, then a disposable pad on top. No moisture has made it to the couch yet.

    • Reply September 18, 2021

      DailyCaring

      That’s an excellent point, thank you for bringing it up and for sharing your solution!

  • Reply August 13, 2021

    Janet Fishwick

    My 93 year old mother has stage 4 Alzheimers and lives on her own. She is mildly incontinent but refuses to admit or recognise her problem. Mother will not be persuaded to wear incontinence underwear because of her stubborn attitude and indifference to her condition. Her bathroom and outlying areas are evidence of her incontinence, but mother is gloriously ignorant.

  • Reply August 11, 2021

    Michele Vatne

    How about incontinence from past surgery? Mom had colon cancer many years ago that has now left her with that issue as well as bladder incontinence. It is not consistent or every day and she is very independent other than that. She is living in the independent section of a senior facility, and they all are horrified to think they have to move to assisted section. (also the switch will be $$$). Any tricks or creative ways to deal with that??

    • Reply August 11, 2021

      DailyCaring

      Since this was caused by surgery, your mom could speak with her doctor to find out if there are tips they have to improve the situation. Or, she may want to start using preventive measures like wearing an incontinence brief. Many of the newer styles are thin and discreet.

  • Reply August 11, 2021

    Linda

    I found a product called Kids N Pets at my local store. The enzymes seem to eliminate urine and its odor effectively. I also bought a UV flashlight to see the spots that need treating and cleaned up an old, old pet stain in the carpet, as well as fresh spots.

  • Reply August 11, 2021

    Katie Behan

    I’m caring for my 87 year old mother who is a bit incontinent and has worn “disposable underpants” for a few years now (that’s what she prefers to call them). I decided to install a bidet attachment onto her toilet. It helps tremendously in keeping her cleaner and she’s still able to use it herself. There are tons of bidet attachment options, many under $100 (we love our Hello Tushy, but there are other good brands out there as well – Luxe, Omigo) and then there are bidet toilet SEAT options that go well into the hundreds. I was so happy with mom’s, I got one for my bathroom too!

  • Reply August 11, 2021

    MRG

    I have been using OdoBan for years. You can find the 32oz for less than $4.00 and the gallon size for less than $10.00 in stores. However, there are more options via online at Walmart.com.

    • Reply August 11, 2021

      DailyCaring

      Thanks for sharing! It’s great that OdoBan has been working well for you.

  • Reply October 22, 2020

    Cherie

    What about the best clean up wipes for rear. My client doesn’t pull his adult diaper up all the way in the back even if I help, so messes.

    • Reply October 22, 2020

      DailyCaring

      We found a lot of adult-size wipes here at Amazon – https://amzn.to/2HsJF6P

      These products generally have great reviews, so you probably can’t go wrong picking one that fits your budget.

  • Reply October 23, 2019

    Jill

    Thanks for the heads up. While reading about incontinence, I read that OdoBan is recommended. So I looked it up. Now, Amazon is the place to find things at the best price usually,; and it was Amazon that popped up at my suggested item (no other retailer). $175 ??? Seriously? This is the suggestion? For who?! The Queen?

    Unbelievable. Doesn’t anyone know a tablespoon of vinegar in water eliminates the odours, bacteria, and worry immediately? Not sure I am going to trust a lot of what gets posted if this is where I begin. Not helpful. carry on

    • Reply October 23, 2019

      DailyCaring

      It’s strange that you found such a high price for Odoban. The link we posted in the article above goes to an Amazon product listing for Odoban that costs $15 for 1 gallon plus a 32 ounce spray bottle.

      Of course, vinegar may work for you and is very inexpensive. However, many experienced incontinence caregivers say that it’s not strong enough to eliminate lingering odors. So if vinegar works, that’s great. If it doesn’t work well enough, then it may be helpful to know that there are other options that can help keep the home smelling clean and fresh.

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