Q: Mom is becoming increasingly incontinent and needs to wear an adult diaper. How should I approach the subject?

A: This is a challenging subject and one that requires sensitivity. You are dealing with a senior who is in transition. By this I mean that there are certain points in a senior's life when physical changes serve as major obstacles and they often don't know how to deal or cope with them.

Incontinence can be a normal part of the aging process. I know of many seniors for whom this is an issue. The best way to discuss the subject is with sensitivity and clarity. Find a time when you and your aging mother can be alone together and have ‘the conversation'.

If she is of relatively sound mind, chances are good that she is well aware of her incontinence issue. She is probably embarrassed, but doesn't know what to do. This is a dignity issue. Help your mother understand that her dignity is very important to you and you know it's important to her.

Many seniors who are suffering from incontinence are not even aware that very good undergarments exist that can save them from embarrassment. Explain that by wearing an undergarment (try to avoid using the word "diaper") she will be able to continue to go out and be with friends and family and not have to worry about embarrassing situations.

Let her know that this will help her to be comfortable when a bathroom might be too far away or if she has a sudden urge to "go" and she can't control her bladder. Explain that the undergarment will give her more security and peace of mind. Explain that she can also sleep in it, which will make getting up at night less fearful for her.

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I think we always worry about broaching the subject; however, usually the outcome of these conversations is one of relief and resolve.