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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

LeBlanc: Caring for loved ones with incontinence about dignity

Common Sense Caregiving


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Caregivers need to realize they're not handling bio-hazardous material here. I know most people become squeamish when dealing with human waste. But caring for people who are incontinent is a learning process; like everything else a caregiver endures.

One hundred percent of Alzheimer's patients will arrive at a point where they lose control of their bladder or bowels, most likely both. At this stage of the disease most families are usually advised that the time has come to institutionalize their loved ones. Even so, countless families continue caring for them at home until their final days.

Incontinence begins with some occasional accidents, possibly because they couldn't make it to the bathroom quickly enough or were unable to remove their clothing in time. I dressed my father with pants that had an elastic waistband: pull up, pull down-quick and easy.

It's important to help your patient preserve as much dignity as possible. Train yourself to say things like, "Oh, you spilled something on your pants," rather than, "Oh my! I see you had another accident."

Think of Ronald Reagan and Christopher Reeves. One was a U.S. President and the other Superman. These were the very essence of people of dignity. However, the need for adult diapers became necessary but in no way detracted from their honor and respectability.

Incontinence pads, adult diapers and other such health care products are intended to keep the patient's bottom clean and protected along with furniture, clothing and other consequential yet replaceable objects. Keep in mind, you're crossing the personal barrier of self-respect. However, as the caregiver, it has to be your decision when to start using these products. Incontinence care is more difficult with Alzheimer's patients because of their inability to make right choices. They may for instance suddenly rip their nappies off, not understanding why they are suddenly wearing such an item.

In the event you may wish to include them on an outing, keep a bag packed at all times containing clothing, wipes and any of the incontinence products you may find necessary.

The dreaded fear of the clean up is far worse than the actual task. Once you get past that squeamish point, the routine becomes easier. Keep things organized; put everything in one convenient place so you will not need to dash out of the room in the middle of a clean up, only to return, finding a mess everywhere.

You should keep a daily record of the time of day your patient has a bowel movement or urinates. This way you'll learn when they should be seated on the toilet.

Also, be sure to pay close attention to their skin as a little redness can quickly develop into a nasty bedsore.

Lastly, make sure you have latex gloves that fit. By the time you finally get those darn things on you could be dealing with pure chaos everywhere.

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