Understanding the affects of Alzheimer's can be a difficult process and caring for someone suffering from the disease often raises a lot of questions. This article offers a simple overview of the illness along with suggestions specifically concerning incontinence management for a person afflicted with Alzheimer's.

What is Alzheimer's?

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. It develops slowly over time, often so gradually it is mistaken for normal aging. It is a progressive, degenerative brain disease. Changes in the brain can begin 10 or 20 years before any recognizable symptoms appear and memory loss is usually the first noticeable sign. The affected person progressively loses the ability to take care of them self and eventually requires full-time care.

What does incontinence have to do with Alzheimer's?

Incontinence can be a severe problem for people with Alzheimer's, especially in the advanced stages of the disease. Since they are losing their ability to reason and understand what is happening to them, they can be extremely adversarial to the products themselves or simply to allowing assistance in changing them.

These patients are accustomed to maintaining their own personal hygiene and wearing undergarments made of cotton. They retain the desire to care for themselves, but lack the capacity to do so properly and regularly. Many caretakers are challenged daily with keeping a protective incontinence product on their patients. As a result of poor hygiene, sores can develop in the surrounding skin and tissue causing serious health issues.

How do I manage their incontinence?

The incontinence products chosen need to feel as close as possible to what the patient was wearing when he or she became ill. Comfortable, properly fit products will make the situation less confusing for the patient and easier for the caregiver to manage; lessening the chance the product will be pulled off. After all, they probably did not pull off their underwear as adults before they became ill and their natural instincts will still apply.

There are many products designed to resemble the look and feel of real underwear, which minimizes the feeling of being made to wear "diapers". Products do not have to be bulky to be effective. A quality product can be thin and highly absorbent at the same time. There is an endless variety of products available online including ones designed specifically for urine, feces, or plus sizes. Proper fit is the key to success.

How do I choose a product?

The first step in choosing a product is learning about the different styles available and their purposes. Pads fit inside regular underwear. Pull-ups/protective underwear are the closest in design to real underwear and most have the added benefit of tear-away sides for easy removal. Belted undergarments are a hybrid style between pads and pull-ups. Briefs (diapers) have tabs on the sides for a secure fit and convenient changing. Reusable products can be an excellent money-saving choice and varieties are becoming more readily available online. Product descriptions should include what level of incontinence they are designed for and size ranges for achieving the best fit.

Nancy Weikel RN
'Ask a Nurse' Representative Specializing in Adult Diapers

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Author's Bio: 

Nancy Weikel is a registered nurse that works at West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell, Idaho. She has been working in the medical field for ten years. She is part owner and nursing consultant to idiaper.com, an online Adult Diapers store with an ask-a-nurse area featuring Nancy.