What is incontinence?
Incontinence is the loss of control of bladder and/or bowel function. Properly functioning, our human brain sends a signal to our bladder and bowel alerting when it is time to empty. Being in control of these functions depends on an awareness of bodily sensations and knowing how, when, and where to respond, and the ability to delay voiding for a period of time.
When a person suffers from certain diseases such as dementia, they may no longer be able to:
- recognize the need to go
- be able to wait until it is appropriate
- find the bathroom
- recognize the toilet
- use the toilet properly
Incontinence may be a chronic condition, happening frequently and in large amounts, or may just present itself occasionally with small amounts of leakage.
It is common for people with dementia to do apparently ‘odd’ things, such as hide wet clothes or wrap feces in parcels and hide them. This behavior may simply result from embarrassment and the inability to process a better way to handle the situation. Another common behavior is to mistake a wastepapaer basket for a toilet. One solution that may help is to remove any objects from the room which could be mistaken for a toilet, while also encouraging regular visits to the bathroom. Try not to get angry or upset and remember that they are behaving in this way because of the dementia.
Facts and figures
According to the Bladder and Bowel Foundation, approximately 60-70% of people with dementia develop incontinence. This is mostly urinary incontinence, while bowel incontinence is not common until very late in the illness; but this varies from person to person.
It is rare for someone in the earlier stages of dementia to have continence problems. More often problems start as the dementia progresses from the moderate to severe stages.
Personal hygiene is a very private issue to all of us and many people find it hard to accept that they need help, even from someone very close to them. Respecting the privacy of the person with dementia and maintaining their dignity is very important. You will need to be tactful and sensitive when helping someone with personal hygiene.
For caregivers this problem can seem very frustrating, worrying, embarrassing or unpleasant. If you are finding it hard to cope with your feelings, talk with your community/district nurse or continence advisor.
People with dementia react differently to the experience of incontinence. Some find it very distressing and humiliating; other people appear to just accept it or are even unaware of ithttp://www.alzscot.org/pages/info/continence.htm