A big thank you to Zena Aldridge FRSA MA RNMH – Admiral Nurse Research Fellow with Dementia UK for this insightful blog.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of progressive conditions that affect the brain causing a variety of symptoms including memory loss, difficulty communicating and processing information and carrying out practical tasks and changes in behaviour. These symptoms can negatively impact upon a person’s ability to remain continent which can prove difficult for the person with dementia, their families, and carers.

Yet incontinence is unlikely to be a symptom of dementia until the latter stages, so it is important that if a person with dementia experiences difficulties with incontinence they see a health professional to rule out any treatable causes. Many people with dementia experience functional incontinence – where the person has difficulty getting to the toilet before passing urine, which is caused by issues such as poor mobility, communication difficulties, disorientation, or the inability to find the toilet which can be alleviated if the right support and advice is available. Improving the identification, assessment and effective management of incontinence can enable people with dementia to maintain their dignity and improve their health. Furthermore, it can reduce the impact on families and carers who may find the management of incontinence challenging.

Whatever the cause of the incontinence there are of things you can try which can help to manage it more effectively. For example, if the person has problems with their memory, they might benefit from being reminded to go to the toilet. If they can become disorientated a sign on the toilet door can help them find their way more easily and a coloured toilet seat in a primary colour can make it easier to see. Clothing without button fly’s and zips might be easier to manage if a person has issues with dexterity. To get more information and support Dementia UK have produced a leaflet on continence which you can download from: https://www.dementiauk.org/get-support/maintaining-health-in-dementia/continence/  or request a hard copy by contacting the Admiral Nurse Dementia  Helpline.

If you are caring for someone with dementia and have any concerns or questions about continence or any other matters, you can call or email the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 or helpine@dementiauk.org for specialist support and advice. The telephone lines are open Monday to Friday 9am-9pm and Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm.The Admiral Nurses will listen to you and give you advice, support and information to help you care for someone with dementia and just as importantly to help you to care for yourself.