Straight Talk: Incontinence and Assisted Living/Memory Care

Assisted Living and Memory Care can be a wonderful options for seniors. There is activity, good food, easy access to medical care, socialization, new people, and safety. The question that families often want to ask, though, but rarely do is this:

What if the senior is incontinent?

Incontinence is Normal in Assisted Living and Memory Care

Incontinence is a fact of life for seniors, and many – probably the majority of residents in Assisted Living – use some sort of protective underclothing. The use of adult diapers is in no way an exclusion for Assisted Living. If the senior is active and aware but just has trouble with urinary incontinence, it’s no big deal. The senior can generally manage this on her/his own. Even if the resident needs regular help with toileting, most Assisted Living communities will put the resident on a schedule and come help the senior every two hours or so.

A special note for seniors coming from Rehab facilities: Unfortunately, in rehab seniors often become incontinent. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the sad truth is that many rehab facilities just do not come around often enough to help seniors stay continent. Once in an Assisted Living community, these residents will need help regaining continence, and with a regular toileting schedule they can often regain the independence they once had in this area.

Incontinence in Memory Care

Seniors in Memory Care communities who are living with a neurological condition such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s typically lose the ability to manage their toileting entirely. This happens later in the disease timeline. The brain does not give them cues about needing to void, and their dementia does not allow them to process signals in this area and take the appropriate action. In most Memory Care sections or communities, the staff expects that most of the residents either enter incontinent or will become incontinent. The plan of care in Memory always includes a provision for incontinence, toileting assistance, and appropriate supplies.

As you consider Assisted Living or Memory Care, remember that Incontinence is not a dirty word, it’s a normal part of the discussion for new members of a Community, and it does not in any way disqualify a person from Assisted Living or Memory Care.