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Bladder and bowel control

The person may lose control of their bladder or bowels.

This happens because the muscles in these areas relax and don’t work as they did.

They may also have fewer bowel movements as they eat less, and their urine may get darker as they drink less.

Should you be worried?

This may be distressing to see, and you may worry that the person may feel embarrassed.

Is there anything you can do to help?

You can ask a nurse to help by showing you how to:
  • keep the person clean and comfortable
  • protect the bed.
You can also ask the nurse or doctor for equipment that may be able to help with this, such as incontinence pads or a catheter (a long thin tube that can be put into the person’s bladder to drain urine).

Incontinence pads can be used to absorb urine (avoid sanitary towels as they don’t absorb as well as incontinence pads) and absorbent sheets can be put underneath the person to soak up any leaks.

In the absence of specialist equipment

Men can urinate into a large empty jar such as a coffee jar. Women find it difficult to urinate in a bucket so a large towel folded between her legs that can go straight in the washing machine may be easier.

For stool (poo), a few sheets of kitchen roll or newspaper can catch stool and be immediately put into a binbag and tied off. If possible drop the stool off the newspaper into the toilet first, but beware – kitchen roll and newspaper may block your drain. Baby wipes are an easy way to gently clean the person’s body and should immediately be placed in the bin bag you are using for the person, not flushed in the toilet.

If you can’t get disposable gloves, ordinary rubber household gloves are fine and can be washed in the way you wash your hands under running hot water with liquid soap. Disposable gloves can be recycled by doing this too. Then hang them on the line to dry in the sun – sunlight helps sterilise.

If you cannot get washable or disposable bed pads you can improvise as follows: Lay any form of plastic sheeting you have available at home, or large opened large plastic bags (e.g. large bin liners) over the mattress, sticking joins with Sellotape or similar. Cover them with large bath-towels in a couple of layers, then put the sheet on top.

To change the sheet, lay it longways along the side of the bed and roll it longways. Then roll up the dirty sheet as you unroll the clean one to replace it gently rolling the person onto the clean sheet and off the dirty one. Immediately place dirty sheets in washing machine on a hot wash. ​ ​

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