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Incontinence is a distressing condition to suffer from, particularly if you are not able to manage the condition yourself. It’s bad enough not being able to control your own bladder and bowels, but if someone else is having to clean up after you, it can be humiliating.

There are things that you can do to help yourself, or someone you’re caring for, that will minimize the distress and discomfort all round, from understanding the condition, to using good routines and the right incontinence products, such as incontinence pads.


Incontinence occurs when someone loses control of their bladder or bowels, and problems with the bladder are far more common. The condition is very often treatable, so while it’s important to deal with the symptoms with incontinence products, you should always speak to a GP as soon as you can.

The types of problem that can cause loss of control in the bladder include:

  • In men – prostate gland trouble. This may be treated or an operation undertaken.
  • A urinary tract infection, which can be treated by the GP.
  • Constipation, which can cause pressure on the bladder. This can be treated by a change of diet, drinking plenty of water and taking exercise.
  • A reaction to other medicines being taken. Informing a GP will allow the drugs or doses to be altered to alleviate the condition.

Loss of bowel control can sometimes be caused by severe constipation where diarrhea leaks out round the hard stool blocking the bowel.


Speaking to a GP may well result in a course of treatment that will stop the incontinence. However, if there is no obvious treatment (e.g. the incontinence is due to simply getting old and losing muscle control) the GP may also give advice on ways to manage the situation. This may include referring you to a community nurse or to a continence adviser. Either of these can visit you at home to discuss your situation and suggest ways for you to cope with the condition.


Dealing with incontinence on a day to day basis can be made easier by following some, or all, of the following ideas:

  • Reminding the person to go to the toilet or taking them at regular intervals. Bowel incontinence can sometimes be managed by taking the person at a set time, if their habits are regular.
  • Being aware of signs such as fidgeting, getting up and down or pulling at clothes that may indicate that the person needs to go to the toilet.
  • Making sure that the toilet is easy to use. An occupational therapist can advise on aids such as handrails.
  • Making sure that the person has clothes that can be quickly removed or unfastened. Velcro fastenings rather than zips or buttons may be simpler if the person has difficulty in managing clothes.
  • Avoiding drinks for several hours before the person goes to bed if the person is incontinent at night. However, you should make sure that they drink plenty during the day.
  • Making sure that there are no obstacles in the person's way such as awkwardly placed furniture or doors which are hard to open.
  • Making sure that they remember where the toilet is. A sign on the door may help or they may need reminding.
  • If it is too difficult for the person to get to the toilet, a toilet aid such as a commode may be useful. Your health professional can advise.


If frequent toileting is not sufficient to prevent incontinence there are a variety of Incontinence Products available to protect items such as clothes and bedding.

  • You can protect the mattress with a waterproof cover but make sure that it does not come into contact with the person's skin as it will cause soreness.
  • Special absorbent, reusable undersheets and bed and chair pads are available which enable the person to lie or sit on a dry surface.
  • Incontinence pads and pants can be worn, either just at night or throughout the day as well. The Pads enable the area next to the person's skin to remain dry. It is important to make sure these are the right absorbency, that they do not chafe and that they are changed as often as necessary.


Incontinence may make the person feel uncomfortable and can lead to skin irritation. Wash the person with mild soap and warm water if they have become wet or soiled and dry carefully before putting on fresh pads or clothes. Used pads or wet or soiled clothes or bedding should be washed immediately or soaked in an airtight container until washed.


Sometimes the person with dementia may behave in what seems a rather bizarre way perhaps because they are ashamed of their incontinence or confused about their surroundings. They may hide wet underwear, for example, urinate into a wastepaper basket, or may occasionally wrap their faeces in a parcel and hide them. Although this will be distressing for you, try not to get angry. The person will need reassurance. Discuss ways of coping with your health professional.


Try to get over any embarrassment or distaste you may feel about helping the person in such an intimate way. You need to be tactful and sensitive as the situation may also be upsetting for the person with dementia. It may help to discuss your feelings with your health professional. It is important not to let dealing with incontinence get in the way of your relationship.


For more detailed information and advice on dealing with incontinence, visit: