4 Tips for taking care of an elderly parent with incontinence

Urinary incontinence is a surprisingly common problem among the elderly, with nearly 51% of people aged 65 and older who live at home reporting bladder and/or bowel incontinence.1 Of those, 41.5% are dependent on the care of others.2 Whilst it’s not uncommon, caring for an elderly parent with bladder weakness can, of course, be incredibly challenging. With this in mind, we have gathered our four top tips to help you take care of a parent with urinary incontinence.

1. Detecting incontinence

Firstly, we wanted to address how to detect incontinence. As it can feel like an embarrassing subject, your parent or loved one may not be forthcoming. If you suspect your parent has a weak bladder, some signs to look out for are:

  • Wearing dark clothes or changing clothes more frequently;
  • Using nappies or sanitary towels to absorb leaks;
  • Hiding rubbish bags containing soiled products/underwear in wardrobes or cupboards;
  • Acting withdrawn and isolated;
  • Refusing to leave the house;
  • Stains on furniture;
  • Showing signs of depression, anxiety or frustration.3

If you spot these signs, encourage the elderly person to speak to their doctor for a formal diagnosis. We have written a blogpost on incontinence and its causes for further information.

What is my ideal solution?

2. Be prepared

Once the elderly person in your life has been diagnosed, you can help them prepare by stocking up on urinary incontinence products that suit their needs. Depending on the severity of their symptoms, iD offers a wide range of discreet and comfortable products, approved by dermatologists. Sit down with your parent and browse the full range here.

You can also think of practical solutions to problems that might arise. For example, you could encourage your parent to pack spare continence products or pants. Also, scented bags for soiled products and underwear could be useful if they are worried about the smell.4

3. Show compassion and empathy

As we’ve said, elderly people experiencing incontinence may feel ashamed. It is therefore incredibly important to treat them sensitively. Being patient with them will help to reduce both their stress and yours.5 It would be best if you also did your utmost to maintain their privacy by conducting any changes of clothing or checking the saturation of a product in a private setting, such as a bedroom or bathroom.6 For further tips on sensitive care, check out our blogpost here.

4. Seek active involvement

Our final tip is to ask your parent for their active involvement in managing their urinary incontinence. By doing this, you will help them to feel more independent and in control. Depending on their level of mobility and mental competency, you could ask them to:

  • Maintain their general health by eating healthily and doing light exercise, such as yoga or walking;
  • Engage in bladder training, with the help of a health professional;
  • Keep a bladder diary that notes their symptoms;
  • Start practising Kegel exercises at home.

All of these tips will likely improve the symptoms of elderly parents and improve their mental health by making them feel involved in their care.

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[1] “Over Half of Seniors Plagued by Incontinence”, Steven Reinberg, 25 July 2014, Source: https://www.webmd.com/urinary-incontinence-oab/news/20140625/over-half-of-seniors-plagued-by-incontinence-cdc#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20report%2C%20nearly,by%20just%20over%2017%20percent.
[2] “How big is the problem? Incontinence in numbers”, Ian Milsom, n.d., Source: https://www.gfiforum.com/Upload/43b34997-7408-4fa6-9547-72488e668060/I%20Milsom%20-%20Incontinence%20in%20numbers.pdf
[3] “Incontinence Care: 5 Ways to Help Your Parent with Incontinence”, Aeroflow Urology, n.d., Source: https://aeroflowurology.com/5-ways-to-help-your-parent-with-incontinence/
[4] “Incontinence”, Age UK, 19 August 2020, Source: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/conditions-illnesses/incontinence/
[5] “7 Tips to Reduce the Stress of Incontinence Caregiving”, Caregiverstress.com, 2 October 2014, Source: https://www.caregiverstress.com/illnesses-conditions/7-tips-reduce-stress-incontinence-caregiving/
[6] “Boundary Crossings and Violations in Clinical Settings”, V.K. Aravind, V.D. Krishnaram and Z. Thasneem, Jan.-Mar. 2012, Source: https://blog.id-direct.com/sensitive-care-for-incontinence-patients/