My loved one has mental illness and is physically unable to wash, dress or manage the toilet for themselves

Try to be calm and reassuring

A lot will depend on the degree of physical and mental impairment your loved one has. You may be caring for someone with very limited recognition of or responsiveness to their incontinence and your care of them or, if they have a mental condition such as dementia, they may have a heightened awareness and become distressed by the intimacy of incontinence care. Either way, it helps to de-dramatise the situation for you and your loved one if toilet hygiene is handled quickly, calmly and with respect to their personal dignity.

Provide good incontinence protection

The right incontinence protection will help ensure leaks are absorbed and faeces and odour are contained helping to protect your loved one’s clothes, their bedding and living environment, and their dignity. Incontinence protection comes in range of sizes and absorbencies for men and women. Many people find that protection that pulls up like ordinary underwear is more acceptable to people who are able to stand up whilst being changed, but if your loved one needs to be changed lying down, there are products which help make the changing process easier. TENA Flex has been specifically designed to make changing people confined to their beds quicker and less strenuous on the back of the carer. Visit the Product Pavilion for more information on this and other incontinence products.

Create the right environment for you both

This will vary according to physical need. If you are helping your loved one to the bathroom perhaps with a wheel chair, ensure the route to the bathroom is unobstructed. They may also prefer clothing that is easy for you or them to remove, such as wide skirts and drawstring trousers. Keep a lidded bin in the bathroom or bedroom to dispose of used products. 

Changing and hygiene

Ensure fresh protective products are within easy reach. For someone that can manage assisted standing, pant products that tear at the sides make for convenient, clean removal. If your loved one needs to be changed lying down, there are products which help make the changing process easier. TENA Flex has been specifically designed to make changing people confined to their beds quicker and less strenuous on the back of the carer. Visit the Product Pavilion for more information on this and other incontinence products.

Skin care

Urine can irritate the skin, which in the case of the elderly, can be particularly sensitive. Protective products with high absorbency and that quickly draw urine away from the skin even when the person is seated or lying down for long periods, will help reduce the risk of skin irritation. If you are worried about your loved one’s skin sensitivity look in the Product Pavilion for protection designed to reduce the risk of skin irritations. Wet wipes can prove easier and gentler on the skin than standard toilet paper particularly when removing faeces.

Fluid intake

Your loved one may be tempted to drink less, but this can make the urine more concentrated, aggravating the bladder and making it more active. Encourage them to drink as normal responding to their natural thirst. This should be enough to keep the urine a healthy, pale straw colour. As you might expect, drinking too much will just increase the urge to ’go’ so just try and keep a healthy balance.

Be aware that some drinks have a diuretic effect

Of course you don’t want to curb your loved one’s pleasures but be aware that caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks are diuretics which will make them need to visit the toilet more.

Establish a routine for you and your loved one

People with impaired mental health tend to feel much safer if they have an established routine. It can help reduce anxiety if changing routines feel familiar in terms of timing, the way they are done, and even the words said as changing takes place. So try and establish a pattern so they know what to expect when you change them and where it fits with their meals, rests and any other activities such as watching TV.  You should also build in time out for yourself, handing over to another carer or family member from time to time who should also follow the established routine.  For other useful tips that can make caring for your loved one easier go to the café.

Get a helping hand from a local organisation or charity

There may already be adult day care centres or healthcare organisations in your area. If so, they could give you the chance to leave your loved one in caring hands so you can take a break for a few hours. Many of these organisations offer transportation, and may even provide a ‘meals on wheels’ service. Visit the café for more ideas and advice on how to make caring for your loved one easier.