What's the best way to deal with my dad's incontinence after his stroke?

5 answers | Last updated: Nov 30, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

Before his stroke, my 75-year-old father was a very independent and active person. He's now living with us, and although he's made a lot of progress with his recovery, the main issue is his bowel incontinence. Sometimes he'll tell us he has to go, but usually he doesn't even realize it until it's too late and there's a huge mess to clean up. I am at the end of my rope! Will this ever get better? Is there any kind of medical treatment that might help?

Expert Answers

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

Dealing with bowel incontinence can be very tricky. I would recommend trying to stay on top of this issue by scheduling regular trips to the bathroom. To some extent, you can regulate the timing of your father's bowel movements by using stool softeners, laxatives, and enemas in a controlled and timed fashion; for example,  you might give your father a laxative just prior to a scheduled trip to the bathroom.  But be sure to check in with your father's doctor about using these medications, because overuse can lead to diarrhea, dehydration, and electrolyte disturbances.

Even one regularly scheduled bathroom trip a day, preceded by a medication to help get the bowels moving, might be enough to prevent accidents later in the day. If your father still has accidents, make sure that he has a properly fitting diaper and perhaps other protective clothing on to make cleaning up easier.

Community Answers

Deathrownomore answered...

I guess what confuses me is when I think of incontinence as a loose stool to begin with. If you are constapaited you would have time to go the bathroom. Are you suggesting the above controlled fashion as a way to get a more thourgh cleaning out once a day. I think you're not kidding when you say it can be very tricky. Is incontinenance more of a psychological problem or the inablility to hold it until one makes it to a bathroom or a little of both. My father is having difficulty with it (after having a small stroke) because he can't get up quickly enough and I think he doesn't realize he has to go until it's too late. Or maybe he can't express what's really going on with him. In any event I think your suggestion is an okay one.

Letizia answered...

My husband suffered a stroke and although incontinence was never a major problem I agree with the medical expert that there may be a way of controlling by using a suppository at regular times during the day, maybe early after breakfast and/or before a shower. I would only do this once a day and not more frequently. This in a short while will establish a pattern to follow. Using adult diapers also may be a precaution that will make both of you feel more secure in between the controlled bowel evacuations. Hope this can help.

Unclefizz answered...

Depends!rather than diapers. Most of us old farts abhor the word diaper, and throw away underwear is much better for us. There are a lot of brands and personally I get whatever on sale and stock up.It really is worth the money and saves many a mess. I'm still able to handle the situation by myself and have to clean up myself. I get into the shower a lot more than I used to, but it's better than the alternative. I hope this helps.

Luckyray answered...

BUY A TOILET SEAT THAT IS NICE AND CUSHIONED ... SO that if he needs to sit longer , it will be comfortable.

Make some home improvement to have a Water Bidet cleaning system. It may restore some dignity back to him if he can clean up himself properly and not just depend on toilet paper that are acidic and Itchy.

Stroke is not only psychologically devastating to the patient who just lost their independence , but also to the relatives and especially close care givers... So first things first > A patient needs soft conselling that things have now changed and they have to have accept that loss of freedom and may be give up some of that strong will that some still possess.

Next > So observe your dads patterns of bowel movement. Is it greater in morning , is it greater in evening , Can you cut down on some sorts of food , while increasing to different sorts of food that might help.

Now REMEMBER, These patients can TEST your nerves and made DEMANDS that might drive you plain crazy, but you have to be firm and say NO MEANS NO .. May be he has to give up a food or change habits ... So once you can set or establish a pattern, Just follow the routine like how they would do it in a hospital. Breakfast / lunch / Dinner at fixed times Bath at fixed times Toilet at fixed times .. Always have him wear adult daipers to prevent accidents.