How Do I Handle an Incontinent Adult With Dementia Who Keeps Removing His Diaper?

7 answers | Last updated: Oct 16, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

What's the best way to handle an incontinent person with dementia who keeps trying to remove his diaper?

Expert Answers

As Founder and Director of Circles of Care, Ann Cason provides caregiving, consulting, and training services to individuals and public and private organizations involved in eldercare. She is the author of Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders.

If an incontinent person with dementia removes or plays with the diaper, you have a few options.

Try using pull-up style incontinence products. These are a bit easier to get used to (because they're styled like regular underwear and come in gender-specific versions. (The person may be removing side-fastening diapers because they're unfamiliar.) Pull-up styles are also harder to take off than side-fastening styles.

Mention this behavior to the person's doctor. It's possible that the person with incontinence is feeling anxious, constrained, or powerless. An antianxiety medication, given for a short period and then gradually tapering off, might relieve these feelings until the person gets used to the undergarments. The medication can be a support through this transition.

Don't give up too quickly. With lots of repetition over time, someone with moderate dementia can still learn to get used to this new reality. At that point he or she may accept the new undergarments and leave them alone.

If the situation doesn't change, you may have to reevaluate the home-care situation and decide whether a more protected living space would be safer. Usually when the person with dementia is removing a diaper continuously, there are other difficult behaviors going on as well.

Community Answers

Jan52 answered...

Wearing a pull up diaper would be just as easy for my mom to remove as she was removing them herself when she used the toilet. She does have other difficult behaviors going on, just as mentioned in the above answer, and I am going to contact her physician asap. I am looking into adaptive clothing that the elderly cannot remove they are jumpsuits that connect in the back and the patient could not remove them!

Ceciglass answered...

My mom takes the stuffing out of her "panties" when she gets wet. She still uses the toilet but doesn't get there in time. Therefore, I have to be there for every toilet time. I now have her wear pads in real panties during the day. That seems to work for her but night time is a another issue. Any suggestions? She gets up to use the porta potty 4 to 5 times a night.

Dear one of mort answered...

Less extra stuffing in an undergarment makes it easier to use if the person intends to use a portable or fixed toilet. There also is a danger of the padding being put down the toilet and this can lead to a major and expensive plumming problem. There are adult undergarments that have a "pocket" for insertion of a pad and these undergarments have a more normal look and feel but they are not disposable. Vermont Country Store has them in their catalog. Frequent toilet breaks and limitinig fluid at night could be helpful. Since people differ in their ability to understand and cooperate, the following may not be helpful. For my husband, telling that a particular action helps me to be able to take care of him at home usually results in more cooperative behavior. I actually want to have him at home but I know that I could come up against problems that I cannot solve or endure. Incontinence hasn't been one of them.

A fellow caregiver answered...

Give him an alternative. It's possible he finds the diaper degrading, but may be more open to other solutions, such as portable male urinals[], and reusable bed pads for when he's sleeping.

Richard864 answered...

Clothing designed to make it difficult for diapers to be removed worked for my brother. Clothing fastens from the back so he cannot remove it to get to his diaper. Result is that he restrains his urge to go and signals to an aide, who takes him to the toilet. At times he does go in his diaper, but it's now the exception. Great to find a solution to such an unpleasant behavior. How nice for everyone.

I buy this clothing from

A fellow caregiver answered...

Use snap-on diapers reusable backwards over the regular diapers and/or put suspenders. The trucker type suspenders that snap on the side should be comfortable enough to sleep in. Also a tight but comfortable garter belt can work.