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Helping An Aging Parent Manage Bladder Leaks


Seeing an aging parent begin to experience bladder leaks can be truly overwhelming and upsetting. After all, this is someone who use to take care of you! If you’re starting to see your aging parent suffer from incontinence, don’t lose heart. Below are tips that can help you approach them about their condition, and ways you can help them manage the leaks.

Incontinence is an incredibly common condition, and the likelihood of having it only increases as we get older. It’s very likely that if you have aging parents, at some point they may start to experience bladder leaks. 

If you have a parent that is experiencing bladder leaks, don’t panic. There are many ways that you can help them deal with the leaks – both physically and emotionally. Keep reading for all our tips!

Talk About It

The first step in helping your parent is to talk with them about their leaks. You may have seen signs already that they have been struggling. Be on the lookout for red flags such as always scouting out the bathroom at new places, going to the bathroom often, or odor control issues. If you suspect that they are experiencing leaks, find a quiet time to bring it up.  

Try to be empathetic and choose your words carefully. Incontinence can often make people feel ashamed or embarrassed and they may have no idea that you’ve noticed. While it may feel uncomfortable for you to bring up the issue, imagine how they feel.  Approach them gently and calmly and try to be as understanding as possible. When discussing potential products to help, avoid using the word “diaper”, which can carry a negative connotation. Instead suggest things like disposable briefs, underwear, or pads. 

Offer to be their partner in figuring out what’s going on and how to fix it. They may have been so focused on hiding their leaks that they have not explored treatment options or products that could really help them. Offer to go with them to their doctor, or help them research solutions.

Help Them Prevent The Leaks

Once you’ve had an open discussion about bladder leaks, the next step is to try to prevent the leaks from happening. There are many ways you can make their lives a little easier:


If you’ve been down an aisle of absorbent products in the grocery store, you know how overwhelming it can be. There are many products to choose from – pads, disposable briefs, pull-ups, all with various levels of absorbency and different fits. It can be hard to find a product that works best. Different manufacturers may use different wording to describe their products, which makes it even more confusing. Many people find that it takes them several tries before finding something that is comfortable, fits well, works with their lifestyle, and prevents leaks. Don’t give up. While it takes some trial and error, finding a good absorbent product is worth the effort. 

Online retailers can help make this process easier. They often have customer service reps who will walk through your symptoms and help you choose something that will work for you. They often have a much wider selection than what you’ll find at a local grocery store or pharmacy. And, they ship the product directly to your door. NAFC partners with a number of quality absorbent companies, and they often have discounts for NAFC customers. You can find a list of them on our Trusted Partners Page.  

Placing a bucket next to the toilet can also make disposal of used products easier. 


If your parent is experiencing a lot of leaks, it can be helpful to have several waterproof pads. Invest in a quality waterproof mattress pad for the bed, and additional pads for furniture, the car, etc. It’s much easier to clean up the pad than to clean a mattress or upholstered furniture. Read this article on how to keep the bed dry, and this article on how to manage odors.


One of the biggest causes of falls in the elderly is rushing to use the bathroom – especially at night. Trying to find their way to the bathroom in the dark especially if they are unstable or have poor balance can be tricky.  Make sure that the path to the bathroom is clear. This includes checking for loose rugs they may trip on, bulky furniture, etc.  

In some cases where mobility is an issue, it may be helpful for your parent to invest in a bedside commode. This is a small toilet that can be placed near the bed, making it easier to use the bathroom at night. 


Encourage your loved one, or help them, to change their absorbent product often. Not only is sitting in a soiled product uncomfortable, but it can also lead to skin irritation and UTIs if left for too long. 


Help your parent choose clothes that are loose and easy to pull on and off in a hurry if they are trying to get to the bathroom quickly. There’s no greater frustration than making it to the toilet only to find that you can’t unbutton your pants.


You should never restrict fluids – you don’t want your parent to become dehydrated. But it may help to limit fluids at certain times of the day, like before bed, or if you’re planning an outing.  


Make sure your parent has a change of clothes and extra absorbent products with them for outings. It’s also helpful to have cleanup supplies, such as wipes, in case of an accident. 

Treat The Issue

Once you’ve done your best to prevent and manage the leaks, it’s time to talk to your parent’s doctor about treating their incontinence. Their doctor may suggest several ways to treat your parent’s bladder leaks. These may include:


Certain foods can irritate the bladder, leading to leaks. It’s different for everyone so it’s a good idea to keep a bladder diary to document the foods and drinks your parent is eating, and the leaks they experience for a few days. This may help you identify certain foods that are an issue. You can find a list of common bladder irritants here and a free bladder diary download here

If your parent is up to it, a little exercise can also help with bladder leaks. Keeping the body strong not only helps them stay mobile and make it to the bathroom when they need to, but regular exercise can also help to keep pelvic floor muscles stronger, which can help to reduce leaks. Talk to your doctor about Kegels to see if they may be right for your parent. 


There are some medications that can help with bladder or fecal incontinence. Ask your parent’s doctor about medications that may help and if they may be a good fit for your parent.  


Creating a schedule for when your parent goes to the bathroom can help give your parent a bit more control over their condition, and may reduce accidents. Encourage them to go at regular intervals, even if they say they don’t have to go. This helps train the bladder to “hold” urine for longer periods, and empty at specific times. Learn how to do bladder training here. 



Constipation can become more common as your parent ages and can lead to bladder leaks. When the colon becomes enlarged, it can place more pressure on the bladder, creating more of an urgent need to go. Try to help your parent avoid constipation by drinking plenty of fluids and getting in a bit of exercise each day. 


Keeping your parent’s skin clean is important when they suffer from incontinence as it can prevent urinary tract infections UTIs, and skin irritation (diaper rash) or breakdown. It’s crucial to use a quality, mild cleanser, a good moisturizer, and a barrier cream each time they change their product.  A barrier cream can help protect skin from stool, urine, or excessive moisture. Many online retailers also carrier products designed specifically for these purposes.

Preventing diaper rash by protecting the skin is the best strategy. Be sure to change your parent’s products often, and as soon as you know that they are wet. And, follow the cleansing steps with each change to keep skin irritation at bay. 

Learn more about how to help a loved one deal with incontinence in our caregiver’s section.


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