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Why do People with Alzheimer’s have Incontinence?


What is the connection between Alzheimer’s and Incontinence?


To understand why 60-70% of people with Alzheimer’s develop Incontinence, we must have a basic understanding of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of Dementia. Dementia is an umbrella term that describes symptoms in the brain when affected by disease or certain conditions. Dementia describes memory loss, behavioral or mood issues, and problems communicating. Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain and creates Dementia. The specific symptoms of Dementia associated with Alzheimer’s include loss of certain mental functions (like memory), judgment and language. The loss of mental function can sometimes affect bowel and bladder control. Alzheimer’s can even make it hard to recognize, find or use the toilet itself.


The most common causes of Incontinence in people with Alzheimer’s include a variety of different reasons. Generally none of the causes include issues with the urinary or bowel tract itself, only in severe, advanced cases of Alzheimer’s. Otherwise Dementia symptoms can cause Incontinence for the following reasons:


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  • Alzheimers can slow down the reaction to recognize the need to use the bathroom
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  • Because of impaired mobility, those with Alzheimer’s can fail to get to the toilet on time. Sometimes this is caused by other conditions like arthritis.
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  • Alzheimer’s can affect communication, so if those with this disease have impaired mobility and can not communicate the fact that they need to use the toilet, they can experience Incontinence.
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  • The inability to recognize, find, or use a toilet may occur. Sometimes due to confusion of their surroundings. Memory loss in general can affect the recognition of a toilet. This is why those with Alzheimer’s may urinate or defecate in inappropriate places.
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  • Caretakers may prompt those with Alzheimer’s to use the toilet, or to plan for going to the bathroom, but they may not recognize this request.
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  • The inability to undo clothing fast enough to use the restroom, because they may not remember how to undress, etc.
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  • The inability to manage personal hygiene.
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  • Embarrassment of Incontinence symptoms can keep those with Alzheimer’s from letting others know that they need to use the toilet. Sometimes they may not understand that they could ask for help in this situation.
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  • Sometimes when embarrassed after making an accident, they may put soiled clothes out of sight, and then forget about it later.
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  • Depression, distraction, or lack of motivation can cause one with Alzheimer’s to not even make an attempt to find the toilet.
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Although the majority of people with Alzheimer’s have issues with Incontinence, it is not an inevitable issue associated with the disease. Management of Incontinence could be as simple as having planned trips to the bathroom with a caretaker. Sometimes those with Alzheimer’s develop Urinary Tract Infections, or have side effects from their medication that cause Incontinence. Because Alzheimer’s can cause issues with recognizing the need to use the bathroom, or even the bathroom itself, it’s never a bad idea to use disposable adult diapers. In any case it’s a good idea to speak with a physician, because they can get to the root of the issue and help manage Incontinence symptoms.

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