What Can I Do to Help My Incontinent Father?
Answered by David Troxel
My father has Alzheimer’s and has become completely incontinent both ways. He refuses to use a diaper and puts up a fight about it. He has ruined several pairs of pants and I am often left to clean up the floor. What can I do?
This is one of the tough situations that many family members face. Unfortunately, most persons with dementia begin to experience incontinence. Here are a few strategies:
Look for medical causes. Sometimes incontinence is caused by urinary tract infections or other problems. See if your physician can help.
Take him to the bathroom regularly. You can use a light touch, “Dad I have to go to the bathroom – come with me,” and then get him on the toilet.
Work on the environment. Post a sign to the bathroom and make sure there is good lighting. Can he find it? Install a contrasting toilet bowl lid so he can see the bowl (vs white on white).
It can be common for persons with dementia to refuse help or deny the problem. Try to simplify his clothes for easy on and off and say something like, “Dad the doctor says we need to keep your skin nice and dry. Let’s get this job done.” Work hard not to get angry or shame him.
This is also a time you may want to consider getting some in-home help and looking for some eventual residential care settings. At a certain point you may not be the best person to struggle with him on this care point—somethings a trained individual can make the magic happen more than an adult child!
Here is a good handout from the Alzheimer’s Association that might be helpful: https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-incontinence.asp