How can I tell whether my father's incontinence after his stroke is temporary?

5 answers | Last updated: Dec 07, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My father is scheduled to come home from the hospital next week, and I'm very concerned because he's still wetting the bed. Is he permanently incontinent or will things improve?

Expert Answers

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

Incontinence is quite common after a stroke. It's not unusual for a stroke victim to require a great deal of assistance with going to the bathroom; some even require a diaper.

As with any deficit after a stroke, the recovery period is different for everyone, and the problem is often greatest early on.

To be on the safe side, your father should have a thorough evaluation by his internist and possibly even a urologist. If he's having significant urinary retention -- in other words, he's not able to completely empty his bladder -- this is serious and requires medical treatment. If his problem is that he can't get to the toilet easily, improvement should come with physical rehabilitation.

In either case, talk to your father's doctors, nurses, and therapists before he leaves the hospital. Make sure that you understand how to care for your father and his bathroom needs before he goes home.

Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...


As the doctor suggested do speak to everyone involved in his recovery. However, what helped our mother is we decided to put her on one of those pull up diapers and set an alarm clock to train her to go to the bathroom every two hours. Eventually, what happened was she started to ask to be taken to the bathroom. I would say this happened after the sixth week at home. Now, though we still have her on a pull up during the night; she knows to asks to go to the bathroom whenever needed. I hope this helps. It will get easier as you learn to understand the need of your dad.


Nonnie122 answered...

My husband had a stroke on July 19th..since that time, he has been incontinent...he "knows" when he has to go to the bathroom, but they don't get to him in time to help him...they do put him on a side commode, when he asks, for his bowel movements.. I feel that the rehab center is encouraging his incontinence, as they keep him in diapers most of the is a person ever supposed to become continent again if they aren't encouraged to use the toilet.. Is this something he will overcome, once he is able to stand, and get into a chair on his own, or with a little help? I hate to think that this will become his life from now on...he is a very proud man, and won't like to live his life out in diapers.. Can someone give me some answers.. Thank You

Min answered...

I had a stroke last christmas,and my first concerns were dribbling fron the side of the mouth,people not being able to understand my speech,not being able to write,to my 90yr old mum,who died at the end of May.In March,the Stroke clinic did a vascular scan and found my artery in right side of neck 80% blocked.I went in a couple of days later for an op,to remove lump in neck,like a bit of stone! In ICU that night,the nurse had to change my bedding 4 times.Since I got home,things have got worse.Only thing that helps is doing pelvic floor exercises.I found a firm Bettercare,that sell,pull up pants at £25 for 25,also night pads 25 for £12.These are Very Bulky.My health centre came round to do an assessment,and they send me 4 day pks,and 2 night pks,When I phone up,today,to say Ive run out of night pks,i got told my next delivery not until 13/12/10!They wont supply pants(luxury!)only bulky pads.Some night In almost clean.Im praying time will help.Im just 58yrs old,2 months ago.I hope your dad will improve,its worse at night,so activity,must help/God Bless,Miriam

Moi answered...

@Nonnie122 - I can totally sympathise with you about the nursing facility "encouraging" your husband's incontinence. As far as I've observed, nursing homes tend to give the treatment that is easiest for their staff, not what is best for the patient, particularly if improvement will make them less dependent on skilled nursing. I had the exact same problem when my dad was admitted to a nursing home after his second stroke. It was difficult for him too, because he's a proud man and because frankly, I can't think of anything less pleasant than having to sit in your own excrement. Hopefully you have found by now that once he gains the ability to sit up by himself and get out of bed, going to the bathroom is much less of a problem. My suggestions are 1) make it clear to the physical therapy staff that this is a priority in his recovery; 2) make sure that his bed at the facility is positioned so it is easy for him to get out. If he can't work the controls on the bed, you may want to ask the nurses to keep the mattress low and flat, with the guard rails down at the bottom; 3) if you bring him home, put a bed rail on one side of the bed so it is easy for him to lift himself up (there is a good, affordable selection on Amazon that require no real installation); 4) position a walker at his bedside to minimize his chance of falling while he is hurrying to the bathroom; 5) be encouraging - always praise his efforts even if he's unsuccessful.

best of luck!