Bed Wetting and Dignity

One major part of our daily life is dealing with the side effects of my grandma’s Alzheimer’s. Along with the memory loss there are many other side effects that she experiences. Some are from the medications, and others are just part of this horrible disease. One issue we deal with at least weekly is bedwetting. It happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes she doesn’t wake up, sometimes she is dizzy and can’t get to the bathroom fast enough, sometimes she doesn’t remember that she has to go, and a lot of the time she doesn’t know where she is or how to get to the bathroom.

Bed Wetting and Dignity - Maintaining Dignity when dealing with the side effects of Alzheimer's

Most of the time she acts like she doesn’t know why her bed is wet. Sometimes she will remake the bed in order to hide the fact that it is wet, and other times she will say she just spilled a glass of water. She has never admitted to wetting the bed, and I don’t know if that is because of her pride or because of the fact that she doesn’t know that she does it. I think it is a little bit of both.

Since bed wetting and midnight sheet changes are bound to happen, we have made some changes to make life a little easier in spite of the challenge. Here are six things that may make  bed wetting easier to deal with.

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  • Diapers – Grandma has been wearing adult diapers for over a year now. At first she refused to wear them, but now she usually will put them on without a fight. The problem is that they only hold so much and often they leak at night. We have found the Depends brand to be the most comfortable. They work wonders during the day, but unfortunately they leak a little too often at night. A major thing we have noticed is that calling them diapers will cause a problem. Not only does it make her feel badly about herself, but it makes her mad that she has to wear something that she doesn’t feel she needs. We call them pads. That way she can keep her dignity and we can ensure she wears what she needs.
  • Mattress Pad – When we first started staying with Grandma the accidents were few and far between. After the second time of having to shampoo her mattress we decided to get a plastic mattress protector. You really need the kind that go over the entire mattress and zip. The ones that go on like a fitted sheet can be easily removed…… I know from experience. The mattress protector can easily be wiped down with cleaner and makes shampooing a thing of the past. We wash down the mattress cover with a solution of cleaner and water and then spray it with Lysol.
  • 3 sets of sheets – Grandma may go 2 or 3 days with out an accident, and then wet through twice in one night. We have found that three sets of sheets works wonderfully. There is always at least one clean set, even if she wet through twice in the night.
  • White Sheets – Urine can have a very strong odor. We have found that sometimes the only way to get rid of the smell is with bleach. Having white sheets makes bleaching them simple. We had to throw away a few sets of colored sheets that became too stained.
  • Two Blankets – Two bed sized blankets really are essential. When the sheets get wet, the blanket may too. Often blankets can take a long time to dry, so having an extra available makes making the bed quickly possible.
  • Move the extras – Grandma likes her room to look neat, so a nice comforter is a must. The problem is that comforters are not made to be washed as often as sheets. The one that was on her bed for over 20 years finally had to be thrown away a few weeks ago from being washed so much in the last year. Now we take the comforter and extra pillows off of her side of the bed. They are within reach if she wants them, but having them get wet is a lot less likely.

Bed Wetting and Dignity - Maintaining Dignity when dealing with the side effects of Alzheimer's

Overall, patience, kindness, and understanding are the most important thing you can have when dealing with a bed wetter. There may be times when you have to wake up at two in the morning to change the bed. There will be times when you finally get to talk to someone on the phone, or the show you have been waiting for for months is finally on, and your loved one will need to be changed. Show them dignity. Show them grace, and show them love. Remember it is not something they can control. Just as you wouldn’t get mad at a baby for wetting through their diaper, don’t get mad at your loved one.

Caregiving is a difficult yet rewarding job, I hope what we have learned makes your experience a little easier.

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