How to Deal With Elderly Incontinence: 12 Tried & True Tips for Managing Urinary Incontinence & Preserving Personal Dignity

Staff Staff 11 min read

deal with elderly incontinence

You’re shopping at the mall with your elderly mother. As you’re walking from one store to the next, she stops dead in her tracks. You watch as her face begins to turn bright red. She’s embarrassed and you know exactly what just happened. You bring her close and lead her to the nearest restroom to get cleaned up.

Living with urinary incontinence can be challenging, especially for the elderly. The urge to go comes on so fast that it’s not always possible to make it to a restroom and they feel their independence and dignity slipping away.

But did you know that elders can gain control of their urinary incontinence all while preserving their dignity?

Learn how to help the elderly with incontinence by following these 12 tips.

Table of Contents


deal with elderly incontinence

12 Tips for How to Help the Elderly With Incontinence

Accidentally wetting yourself can be embarrassing, but it’s frequently related to an internal body issue that you likely have no control over. 

More common in women and the elderly, urinary incontinence is caused by an improper function of the muscles in and around the bladder, causing urine to leak unexpectedly. 

If you know an elder suffering from urinary incontinence, take time to learn proper incontinence care for the elderly so you can lessen their worry and embarrassment and invest in ONDR.

ONDR underwear is designed to be a comfortable, sustainable, and eco-friendly option for women with incontinence. The leak-proof underwear allows women to discreetly wear a feminine product that helps contain urine while protecting their dignity and avoiding the stigma that often comes with incontinence. 

how to deal with elderly incontinence

#1: Determine the Type of Incontinence You’re Dealing With By Visiting Your Doctor

Incontinence isn’t a one-type-fits-all issue for the elderly—it can happen for many different reasons. To best determine the type of incontinence your loved one is dealing with, a visit with your doctor is warranted.

Does your elderly loved one deal with bladder control problems? Incontinence often happens because of:

  • A urinary tract infection
  • Vaginal infection or irritation
  • Constipation
  • Medication side effects
  • Weak bladder or pelvic floor
  • Overactive bladder muscles
  • Nerve damage from different diseases
  • Arthritis; or
  • Pelvic organ prolapse

Although urinary incontinence is more common in women, men can be sufferers, too. Male incontinence could be caused by:

  • Arthritis
  • Nerve damage from disease
  • Damaged bladder nerves or muscles
  • An enlarged prostate gland; or
  • Prostatitis

Sometimes, the causes of bladder or bowel incontinence are treatable, but only an examination by your doctor can tell. A doctor could diagnose you with one of the four different types of incontinence:

  1. Stress incontinence happens when pressure is put on the bladder (exercise, coughing, laughing, sneezing, etc.). This is most common in younger women.
  2. Urge incontinence is when someone has a sudden need to empty their bladder and cannot hold it in. This is common for people with:
    1. Diabetes
    2. Alzheimer’s disease
    3. Parkinson’s disease
    4. Stroke; and
    5. Multiple sclerosis 

  3. Overflow incontinence is when a bladder is always full and constantly leaks small amounts of urine. This is common in men with enlarged prostates or people with diabetes or spinal cord injuries.
  4. Functional incontinence is the most common type of incontinence in the elderly. They have normal bladder control but have a different issue that makes it difficult to get to the toilet in time to empty their bladder.

#2: Be Patient & Empathetic

Not only is losing control of bodily functions embarrassing, but it also ranks among the most stressful health issues humans experience. 

Imagine never having a clue when you might have an accident. You must always be prepared with extra underwear, a change of clothes, and supplies to clean up.

Talk about stressful.

If you’re someone providing help for incontinence in the elderly, patience and empathy can go a long way. You might even find that your calming presence helps lessen your own stress as well.

For example:

Your elderly mother suffered from a stroke and is wheelchair-bound. Because of her inability to quickly recognize she has to empty her bladder and then move from her chair to the toilet, she also suffers from functional incontinence. As her primary caregiver, this is an added stress to you as you find yourself cleaning and changing your mom multiple times throughout the day.

Instead of audibly groaning, hastily moving through the changing process, and scolding mom for her accident, try this:

“Oh, mom, you had an accident, but don’t worry, I’ll get you cleaned up. This happens to a lot of people, but I’ll get you changed and comfortable quickly. If you feel like you have to go again, try to let me know.”

Displaying patience and empathy might be more difficult than it sounds, but that’s okay. We understand that it can be a difficult, stressful, and big job to deal with incontinence care for the elderly. 

Consider ONDR underwear, a comfortable and leak-proof underwear option for incontinence sufferers.

#3: Be Prepared

Preparation is key when it comes to incontinence care for the elderly. 

What might this look like?

  1. Have a plan for every part of the day. Are you going on a short outing, a longer outing, or maybe out of town for a few days? Will you be in the car for long periods? Is there a lot of walking to do? What are the bathroom situations like at your destinations?
  2. Always keep supplies stocked. This should include things like:
    1. Extra underwear
    2. Antibacterial soap
    3. Wipes
    4. Necessary medication; and
    5. Water

  3. Always know where public bathrooms are located wherever you might be going and map out bathrooms to stop along the way when traveling.
  4. Keep pathways to bathrooms clear and free of obstacles for easy transitions. 
  5. Choose the right underwear for as much protection as possible. 

#4: Avoid Bladder Irritating Foods

Incontinence may be unavoidable. It might not matter how much liquid you’ve drank or how much and what types of food you’ve eaten. When you have to go, you have to go. 

And as we know, incontinence is caused by many different things.

Attempt to control what you can, like the foods that your loved ones eat, to help lessen the frequency of incontinence issues.

Some bladder irritating foods to avoid to lessen incontinence in the elderly include:

  • Alcohol
  • Apples/apple juice
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruit
  • Coffee; or
  • Spicy foods

Instead, to promote good bladder health, try:

  • Yogurt
  • Bananas
  • Cranberries
  • Nuts
  • Cucumbers

#5: Cut Back on Caffeine & Alcohol

Most Americans drink caffeine-containing beverages daily—it is the most consumed stimulant drug in the world. Whether in the form of…

  • Coffee
  • Energy drinks
  • Alcohol; or
  • Carbonated beverages

… caffeine’s diuretic effect has an overall effect on the bladder.

Studies have shown that consuming caffeine and alcohol could play a role in urinary incontinence by showing that a reduction in caffeine led to a reduction in urinary urgency and frequency.

#6: Pelvic Floor Exercises

Bladder incontinence can sometimes be caused by having a weak pelvic floor. If your pelvic floor muscles have normal strength:

  • Your pelvic organs are supported
  • Sexual function is normal for you
  • You have controlled and normal bowel movements; and
  • You have controlled and normal urination

If you think you or your loved one is suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction that could be associated with urinary incontinence, seeking treatment from a pelvic floor physiotherapist and regularly practicing pelvic floor exercises may help.

#7: Encourage Them to Quit Smoking

Not only is smoking an irritant to the bladder, but smoking can even lead to bladder cancer.

Studies have shown that smokers are more likely to suffer from incontinence than non-smokers and heavy smokers are twice as likely to develop severe incontinence.

Consider how smoking could lead to urinary incontinence:

People who smoke frequently usually develop a chronic cough. Coughing puts lots of pressure on the pelvic floor muscles, weakening them and increasing the chances of stress incontinence.

Smoking also tends to leave people with dry mouths, leading them to increase their liquid intake. More liquids typically mean more frequent urges to use the restroom.

#8: Practice “Timed Voiding”

Timed voiding teaches you to regain voluntary control of your bladder. How does it work?

To practice timed voiding, head to the restroom before you get the urge to empty your bladder, even if you don’t have to go. Determine a timed interval to use depending on your usual bladder urges/accidents and go each time. As you have fewer accidents and can stay dry in this interval, you lessen your intervals until you reach your goal. 

#9: Use Assistive Devices

If you’re wondering what’s available as far as help for incontinence in the elderly, various assistive devices may help lessen the stress of urinary incontinence and make the situation a bit easier on both you and your loved one.

A bedpan helps bedridden individuals, or those who may not recognize their urge to empty their bladder as quickly, still urinate without wetting themselves. Bedpans are typically made of plastic, metal, or ceramic and are designed to slide underneath one’s bottom for them to go.

Another option to keep nearby is a bedside commode. This portable toilet has a removable pot that allows individuals to use the bathroom with a bit more privacy without stressing about making it to the bathroom.

#10: Prevent Constipation

We know that many different things can cause urinary incontinence, but one of the biggest contributors is constipation.

When an individual is constipated, their colon is full because they have difficulty with bowel movements. The full colon is enlarged, placing pressure on the bladder, worsening the urge to urinate and increasing the chances of incontinence. 

How can you help prevent constipation?

  1. Adjust your position on the toilet. Try raising your feet on a stool so that your knees are higher than your hips or sit with your back straight and elbows resting on your knees while you take even breaths.
  2. Avoid constipating foods like:
    1. White rice
    2. Tea
    3. Cheese
    4. Chocolate
    5. Unripe bananas

  3. Eat and drink foods like:
    1. Beans
    2. Whole grains
    3. Vegetables
    4. Fruit
    5. Nuts
    6. High-fiber foods; and
    7. Water

  4. Exercise regularly to help regulate the digestive system.
  5. Establish a healthy bathroom routine where you try to go at the same time every day, and immediately respond to your urge to go.
  6. Take a fiber supplement or use laxatives approved by your doctor.

#11: Limit After Dinner Liquids

Urinary incontinence might increase for your elder loved ones throughout the night because they don’t sense the urge to go while they are sleeping. And if they do, it might be a slow process for them to realize it and try to make it to the bathroom in time.

To try and reduce the urge to urinate throughout the night, limit how much they eat and drink after dinner, especially if they have an earlier bedtime. Allow plenty of time from their last meal and drinks to use the restroom before sleep.

#12: Use Incontinence Underwear

Even after implementing all of these tips and tricks, urinary incontinence is bound to happen, so why not just take away the embarrassment of it all?

Incontinence underwear, like ONDR’s eco-friendly and sustainable option, does the job. The leak-proof underwear is designed to be…

  • Sleek
  • Comfortable; and
  • Absorbent

… without compromising function, style, or performance.

Even better, they’re washable and easy to manage alone—a perfect choice for the elderly.

how to deal with elderly incontinence cta

Never Make It a BIG DEAL: Preserving Dignity Is Key In Incontinence Care for the Elderly

Having an accident could be enough to get anyone down, especially an older adult who wants to feel put together and independent. 

Remember, your loved one wants to preserve their dignity and save themselves from embarrassment, too, so never make their incontinence a big deal. Instead, simply address it and help them clean up and change into something new. 

Dealing with incontinence shouldn’t mean that they’re treated any differently, even if they need some help figuring it out.

deal elderly incontinence

ONDRwear Incontinence Underwear Provides an Extra Layer of Security for Elderly Dealing With Incontinence

We understand that dealing with urinary incontinence is not only embarrassing but frustrating and annoying, too.

And we know that incontinence care for the elderly is a lot of work. You always need a bag packed with extra clothes. Maybe they need someone to help them get to and from the bathroom. Or they might not be able to change themselves. 

Caring for a loved one struggling with incontinence is a big job, but ONDRwear can make it easier.

ONDR is incontinence underwear that offers both comfort and function without compromising style or performance. The sleek underwear is:

  • Absorbent
  • Leak-proof
  • Comfortable; and
  • Easy to manage

They also come in different designs, colors, and patterns, just like underwear.

Have we convinced you yet? Free yourself of the worries that come with urinary incontinence and try our leak-proof underwear today.

how to deal with elderly incontinence cta
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