My mother-in-law has dementia and seems unaware of her incontinence. How can I get her to wear Depends?

Asked by
Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Expert Answer
3930 helpful answers
She's in denial, which is common. Is there a third party who can work with her on this? Even an in-home health person? You MIL may be embarrassed with you, but would look at help from a "nurse" who could explain this is very common and using different underwear is much more dignified that wetting one's clothes.

There are many things that can better be handled by a third party as that takes out the emotional bond. I hope you can find someone, as this is wearing on all of you.

1. take all of her underpants away, put the depends in the same place as the underpants were. Also put some depends near the toilet.
2. tell her the doctor told her that she has to use the depends. use "the doctor" for all changes. Their generation is very willing to do anything a doctor tells them. If necessary, have the doctor write a short note to her.
Depends are more like panties/underwear now. My mother has had some problems. They are not like diapers and pull up just like regular undergarments. I anticipated problems getting her to wear them but I didn't mention the change and none was noticed.

There are different causes of incontinence so you should speak to her doctor. It might not be only the dementia that is the problem.

There are also a few web sites (Depends and other brands) that send free samples.
Dear carol, I want to wish you a happy hoilday season. without all your help I do not know what I would have done. Mom passed Oct, 5, 2009 and just came back from New York, she was buried with my dad in the Veternans cementry in Long Island. It was hard No I have not cried hard yet . Now my both mohter-in law and father in-law are showing signs. My mother in law fell three times in one day and my father in-law is forgetting things or repeating. All they do is fight he had to leave and come home after three days. My husband was so embarssed in the hospital my father all he did was fight with every one. I took care of my mom for almost 10 years, she died in my arms with dignity. I told my hubby they sound like they may have the signs of begining of Alzherimers/Dementia. He is in a denial state now. I try to help and let him know when a person has many falls 20 in less than 2 years something is wrong. I hope he wakes up, he know what I went through. and I am still going through things. Bless you and all the caretakers out there. It is a hard battle. patrica61
This is a situation that everyone gets to at one point, I have my 89 yr old mom and my husband's 89 year old grand mom that live with us. They both wear depends, at first both fought me on the idea, until I pulled my self out of the idea that they were still able to make choices for themselves, then I made the changes necessary for them to be able to accept. I first sought the help from the 3rd party as Carol notes, my 3rd party was the doctor he explained to them both that it was just a transition that was necessary,like having to take there meds. It makes it less complicated for you then I just went out and purchased the 80 ct pkg at Costco and took all of the panties out of the drawers and left them in there place. Eventually and had to place some closer to them in the bathroom area so they could be within reach just in case. It soon became just another step in there personal hygeine regimen. Hope this helps good luck and God Bless :)
She might be more familiar with pads from the past, and you can call them PantiLiners. However, if she keeps forgetting what they are, forgets instructions, and is out of touch with how wet or poopy she is...has lost sense of smell, then someone has to help her.
Think most caregivers go through this, where the parent just can't remember to use pads themselves. Loss of self awareness, loss of self respect? Attention, perhaps due to bad eyesight with loss of smell...and this area doesn't concern them any more. Anyway, now I have to be there when she goes to the bathroom. Almost had pads flushed down the toilet too.
You don't have to feel bad about your parents being diapers, just think how they would feel if they might mess up your furniture or have a bad accident. They don't understand that after the body gets to a certain age we all loose control. I was buying the pull up diapers at SAMS club in Florida. She had Alzheimers/Dementia. however before when she was in New York at her house, she would go through panities a day and the smeel stared so up north I had to buy diapers. it is all about hygeine. Your parents may also be on a water pill and that also makes them go to the bathroom alot. Don't feel bad. it is for their safety and also makes it eaiser on you. bless you. patrica61
My mother-in-law is 85, has no sensation of needing to go, or of being wet. Refuses to believe that she has wet herself, saying that she must have sat in something wet. She will wear adult diapers, but forgets to change them and leaks. The doctor has said that there is nothing he can give her if she doesn't even have the sensation. She is very stubborn and becomes very agitated if her smell or wetness is pointed out to her. She even hangs up dirty clothes to wear again.
Concered59, we have that "battle" every day with MIL here. She isn't completely incontinent but she leaks and sometimes just doesn't make it to the bathroom in time. So she wears Depends pull ups. She would wear the same one every day if I didn't insist on a clean one at least every time she changes her clothes. She just doesn't feel the wetness because it does such a good job of pulling the wetness away from the body and containing it.

I think we've all gone through the problem of getting them to wear clean clothes. What I do, is at night, after she has gone to sleep I go into her room and get the dirty ones and then she has to wear something else. Well, that was when she could still dress herself. My assisting her more and more has gradually morphed into me doing most of the work of dressing her. So I just take them when I leave the room. She'll say don't take my clothes I'm going to wear them tomorrow. I just tell her she has clean clothes in her closet to wear. I honestly think that because she can't see them (hanging in the closet behind closed doors) that she thinks they don't exist. Every night when we say it's time to go to bed, she asks if she has a bed here to sleep in. Every night. So it doesn't surprise me if she thinks she has no clothes to wear. It's so sad and I love her so much.
A very dear friend (99 yrs old) is in assisted living. We help to make sure she has supplies (Depends, pads, polygrip, etc.) Recently she has begun to smell, not only her clothes but a wig that she wears every day. Her lunch mates have called her on it, but she still doesn't get the wig cleaned, and I think she is hanging up and wearing stained slacks rather than putting them in the laundry. It's almost unbearable to be in her company and her room. Being a friend and not family, I hesitate to mention this to her. I've reported it to her guardian and hope she can take care of it.

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support