Controlling bladder and bowel functions with dementia

People living with dementia can experience a variety of issues with bodily functions, such as recognising the need to pass urine or empty their bowels, confusion when trying to find a toilet (especially when away from the home) and uncertainty when attempting to navigate zips or buttons located on trousers or under garments. These practices can create stress or anxiety, causing difficulty with bladder and bowel control.

Helpful hints 

With the assistance of a loved one or carer, there are ways in which a person living with dementia can be supported to maintain their comfort and dignity. These include: 

    • Carefully observing the person’s toilet behaviour. Common examples include restlessness and tugging at clothing when a toilet is needed
    • Ensuring fluids are consumed everyday, such as milk, juice and soup, while avoiding large quantities of caffeinated drinks such as coffee or cola
    • Rearranging and decluttering living spaces to create a central route of access to the toilet in the person’s home
    • Investing in a night light to provide an accessible route to the toilet which can easily be navigated in the dark. 

Seek advice 

A doctor, continence nurse advisor or continence physiotherapist can provide assistance in suggesting products to contain bladder or bowel loss. Many products suitable for containing bladder or bowel loss can be purchased online from Independence Australia. 

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Contact the free National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 between 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday AEST.

You can also email the Victorian Continence Resource Centre via the Independence Australia website here. Your enquiry will be answered within one business day.

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This article has been written from 'Dementia and Bladder and Bowel Control, Bladder and Bowel control can be helped' as part of an Australian Government Initiative and can be found on the Victorian Continence Resource Centre website.