Talking to an Adult with Incontinence

Jun 21, 2016

Talking to an Adult with Incontinence

Share Article

Coping with incontinence can be challenging and frustrating, not only for the individual with incontinence, but also those around them. Despite this, it’s important that the families and loved ones of those handling incontinence remain sensitive and compassionate, rather than getting angered by any trials that may become present.

Handling Accidents with Sensitivity

With that being said, there are certain ways you should talk to seniors that are coping with incontinence, and there are certain ways you should not talk to them. Here are some examples of situations that need to be handled gently while helping someone manage their incontinence:


You are leaving the house with your senior loved one, and accidents have been more prevalent lately.

What not to say: You ARE wearing a diaper, right? We don’t have time for any accidents today.

What to say : We’re going to be out for a while. Are you wearing the appropriate undergarments?

Explanation : The word diaper can seem harsh and it comes with a childish connotation. It is important to remember that this is an adult that you are speaking to. Despite this, it is acceptable to give the individual a helpful reminder!


The senior has stood up from the dinner table, and you notice that they have had an accident.

What not to say: Did you have to do that at the dinner table? Go clean yourself up.

What to say: It looks like you may have spilled something on your pants, why don’t you go change?

Explanation: Incontinence can be an embarrassing disorder, and it definitely does not help the matter to scold the individual in front of other friends or family members. Within this situation, it’s also important to remember that these are called accidents for a reason. 


Nighttime accidents have become more prevalent lately, despite limited daytime accidents.

What not to say: You don’t need a drink with dinner; I’m tired of cleaning up your bed in the mornings.

What to say: It looks like too much water might be the reasoning behind these new accidents, what do you think we can do to help this?

Explanation: Hydration is important, and you should never tell anyone they shouldn’t have a drink of water, despite this being the root of the problem. Helping the senior to understand the issue, and allowing them to participate in brainstorming about solutions will help them to feel more in control. 


Every time a senior gets frustrated or angry, they’ve been having accidents.

What not to say: You do this every time we argue! Are you having accidents to spite me?

What to say: It looks like this has been happening lately when you get upset, is there anything I can do to help you from becoming frustrated?

Explanation: While many consider incontinence a disorder, it’s also a common symptom within other disorders. Things like anger and frustration may trigger incontinence. If you notice this within a loved one, try to limit irritating situations to the best of your ability. This can be difficult at times; especially depending on other symptoms the senior may be dealing with.

Yes – incontinence can be frustrating for all those that are exposed to it, but it is important to remember that these individuals are adults and must be treated with the respect and the dignity they deserve. Accidents happen!

If you notice worsening incontinence within a loved one, speak to a physician. Medical professionals can provide families with the resources that will facilitate this situation for both the senior and their families and loved ones.

Please enter a comment.
Please enter a name.
Please enter a valid email address in the form "".
Please check the box to the left of "I'm not a robot".

Frequently Asked Questions

What is bladder training?

It’s just what it sounds like! Patients either practice controlling the urge, set specific times to visit the bathroom to avoid accidents, or practice double voiding. Double voiding is the idea of completely emptying the bladder by urinating then urinating again after a few minutes.

See All Answers »

What are the causes of fecal incontinence?

Many women suffer from fecal incontinence due to childbirth that caused muscle or nerve damage. However, damage to the rectal muscle or nerves can happen from the strain of chronic constipation. Also, rectal walls may stiffen from surgery or scarring that may cause the inability of the rectum to stretch in order to accommodate the stool. Lastly, there are instances of rectal prolapse or rectocele, where the rectum drops down to the anus or protrudes through the vagina, causing fecal incontinence. 

See All Answers »

Search By State

Find Senior Caring Options by State
Finding the perfect senior care community is only part of making your loved one’s senior living transition smooth. At SeniorCaring, we know that it is also equally important to be aware of what other community services and resources are available to your family’s senior. Choose your location and find local resources for your senior.