What if my Mom has an Incontinence Issue but Refuses to use Depends?

“The carpet constantly has to be cleaned and there is fecal matter in the washer. My Mom does not realize the big problem her incontinence is causing for the entire family. Please help!” – Frustrated in Baton Rouge.

Dear Frustrated,

I’m so sorry for what you are going through. Not only is the extra work trial some, but you are no doubt worried about your Mom’s declining health. It might help (a little) to know that you are not alone. We get this question a lot!

First, consider possible reasons for her resistance. She may not want to wear them out of embarrassment or denial. You can help her “save face” with some of the ideas below. There may be an underlying issue of dementia and/or other health problems adding to the problem. But, take heart! Incontinence is definitely a delicate subject but can be controlled (and yes, it can be a big battle of wits and patience).

Next, make sure there are no underlying medical issues that could be causing the incontinence or making it worse. Urinary tract infections and constipation can cause urinary incontinence, while many drugs can exacerbate an existing incontinence problem. Constipation and hemorrhoids can cause fecal incontinence. These conditions are usually easily treatable. Make an appointment with your Mom’s Doctor ASAP.

Refusing to wear Depends? Try these steps.

Sometimes small routine adjustments can alleviate big incontinence issues.

Once that has been addressed, try what we call at Home Instead Senior Care the Gentle Reminder Program. This is when you time your Mom’s bathroom activity. By learning her schedule, you can try to be proactive, bring her to the commode, and encourage her to go. Watch after she drinks her morning coffee or juice if she needs to go to the bathroom. Is she drinking too much at night, which makes her have an accident in the bed?

If she wakes up with an accident from a bowel movement continuously, ask her doctor if you can try some kind of medication that would help you adjust her bowel schedule. Always bring your mom to the bathroom after a meal and have some toilet sitting time. If you can leave her alone, tell her you will be right back (give her a magazine to look at or whatever may keep her interest). If she cannot be left alone, perhaps use this time to visit with her when there are not as many distractions around. Of course, if your mom has cognitive and judgment limitations she may not realize how severe the problem is.

If you sense that mom is just being stubborn, you may have to lay down the law – explaining that she simply cannot ride in the car (or use her favorite chair, etc.) unprotected. Many makers of incontinence supplies now make disposable, absorbent briefs that look and feel a lot like regular underwear. You may have to get rid of all her underwear and replace them with the new briefs.

While you work on all these steps, protect your flooring, furniture and bedding. Place waterproof bedding on the mattresses and box spring. Replace carpet with vinyl flooring.

We know every situation is different, and it can be difficult to handle when your emotions are so tightly wrapped up with Mom. Remember, you can always call us to discuss this or any other issue and we can try to offer some additional solutions.

Readers, have you found something that is helpful? Please share in the comments on on our forum!

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