How can I get my parent to wear adult diapers?

Sbaca asked...

My mother just recently moved in with us and she refuses to wear adult diapers. However, she will poop herself all day. If she does make it to the bathroom she makes a horrible mess all over. I am not sure what to do. I've tried changing her diet, talking with her and nothing has worked. It's driving my family and I crazy! Do you have any advice???

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

You don't mention if your mother is having problems with urination as well. I'm also curious why your mom came to live with you? Does she have the ability to live independently? Was she having bowel problems before she moved in with you? These are all factors that help me understand how best to help. For now, I'll say your mom has bowel incontinence. Many things can contribute to this problem, and it can be very difficult to deal with. She may be humiliated that this is happening to her! My suggestions include:

  1. First, make sure she's not constipated. I know this sounds strange but sometimes older adults will become constipated so badly the stool gets stuck and when this happens liquid stool leaks out from the blockage. They end up with little or no control over their bowels. You can try giving her an enema to see if this helps.
  2. If she isn't blocked, I’d look into seeing if she's taking any medications or laxatives that are making her stool soft. Make a list of everything she's taking and talk to her doctor or a pharmacist about side-effects including loose bowel and bowel incontinence. Stop or adjust the meds that have this side-effect.
  3. If you try these things and the problem isn't better, take your mom to see her doctor and ask for a full evaluation to see what's  going on with her bowels. Some hospitals have specialized incontinence programs or clinics, which would be a great help for you and your mom.

Meanwhile, your mom should be wearing diapers and if she's resistant, you may need a professional home caregiver with experience in older adults with bowel incontinence. Sometimes adults are more willing to wear diapers if they're learning (or being told to) from a professional versus a family member. Check with nursing care agencies for someone with experience in this area.