The later stages of dementia

9. Toilet problems and incontinence

As dementia progresses people may find it harder to use the toilet and may experience accidents or incontinence. This could be urinary incontinence (urine leaking by accident), faecal incontinence (faeces leaking by accident) or both. Incontinence may be an occasional leak or a total loss of control.

Having dementia doesn’t mean a person will definitely become incontinent, but there are a number of reasons why they could be, or have problems using the toilet. These include various medical conditions, many of which can be treated. Possible causes include:

  • urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • severe constipation
  • side effects of medication
  • prostate gland trouble
  • forgetting to go to the toilet or forgetting where the toilet is
  • not recognising the need to go to the toilet.

If a person develops problems with continence, speak to the GP. If a cause can’t be found, ask for a referral to a continence adviser. They can offer advice and help with managing the situation including incontinence pads and other aids. For more information see factsheet 502, Continence and using the toilet.