How can I get my mother to change her underwear when it gets wet?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 25, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

I'm taking care of my mother. She wears depends but won't change during the day & sometimes she won't get up to go to the bathroom. I told her when the underwear gets wet to change it but she doesn't. You also can't correct her. She gets mad or will cry. How do I handle it? She has no short term memory left.

Expert Answers

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

One of the "symptoms" of Alzheimer's disease (I prefer not to use a negative term like difficult) is incontinence. She is not going to remember you telling her to change when she is wet so don't even bother to remind her.
I wish one answer would be THE ANSWER but of course we don't have one answer just a variety of suggestions. When we post my answer others will also respond which is a wonderful part of My thought is that instead of your mother having "the problem" you have "the problem" and you have set a timer to help you remember to go to the bathroom as you have a bladder problem. And why doesn't she join you so you won't feel bad. What you will have done is transferred "the problem" from your mother, who realizes something is wrong but does not understand what the problem is and how to fix it, to you. Now when the bell goes off she will remind you and she can be the mother. You have become the mother and she has become the rebellious teenager, a role reversal. Try in many ways to help her regain her role as mother but asking her opinion, asking for her help in as many ways as possible.
It's a difficult time, bless you for caring for your mother.