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Bladder or bowel problems can occur whether you live at home, in a care home or during a stay in hospital. Whatever the circumstances, these problems should never be treated as inevitable and you should always get some advice and support.

At the first sign of problems, you should talk to your GP or district nurse. Incontinence often improves with treatment.

The Dorset Bladder & Bowel Continence Service can arrange an assessment and talk to you about your treatment options. You can refer yourself online or call 01202 443 111 (East, based in Bournemouth).

Helping yourself

When you first experience symptoms of bladder or bowel problems, try to:

  • drink at least six to eight cups of liquid each day, as restricting your intake during the day could make bladder problems worse
  • restrict how much you drink in the few hours before bedtime
  • cut down on caffeinated, fizzy and alcoholic drinks, and drinks containing artificial sweeteners
  • eat fibre-rich foods
  • keep as active and mobile as you can, as this can help your bowels to keep healthy
  • talk to your GP about any medication you are taking which could be causing symptoms.

Skin care

Washing regularly helps keep your skin healthy. If you use pads, change these regularly and dry the area carefully. A simple cream such as zinc and castor oil applied thinly will protect your skin. If your skin becomes sore or broken then consult your district nurse or GP immediately.

Avoiding smell

Fresh urine does not smell offensive but if it does this may indicate an infection. Good quality pads help absorb some smell, but wet clothes should be changed and washed as soon as possible.  

If you require help with extra laundry, speak to your district nurse or continence advisor. 

If you have difficulty with personal care, home care may help.

Products to help

Incontinence products help you manage the problem and carry on being independent.

You can buy many of these products in pharmacies and supermarkets, or you may be eligible for a free supply as part of your assessment. It is important to seek professional advice before using them permanently.

Dementia and continence

Someone with dementia may forget to visit the toilet, or be unable to communicate their needs. In these cases, regular gentle reminders might be needed. If the person you are caring for forgets where the toilet is, a notice or picture on the door might help. A regular routine can help, or you may need to recognise the symptoms and discreetly encourage at those times.

If this doesn't help or you are having difficulties, talk to your GP or district nurse. The Alzheimer's Society has advice on managing toilet problems and incontinence including a downloadable fact sheet.