How To Manage Incontinence In People With Down Syndrome


This article is evidence-based, verified by Dr. Ahmed Zayed.

Urinary incontinence is one of the most common problems faced by people with Down Syndrome. Dealing with issues of incontinence daily can take a massive toll on the mental and physical health of both the afflicted person and their caretakers. To help deal with such problems, we’ve listed down ways to address and handle incontinence in people with Down Syndrome. 

Urinary Incontinence is the involuntary loss of bladder control, which usually afflicts people with severe Down’s Syndrome. Caring for a differently-abled person suffering from incontinence can be difficult if caretakers are not equipped with the right tools or knowledge. However, knowing how to handle such issues can make a massive impact on improving the quality of life of people with Down’s Syndrome and reducing the stress of their caretakers. 

Here are a few ways you can help someone suffering from Down’s Syndrome and urinary incontinence: 

  • If the urinary incontinence occurs at night (enuresis), make sure the person goes to the toilet before bedtime 
  • Make sure the person avoids caffeinated drinks 
  • Have a healthy routine and avoid too much screen time for the person 
  • Ensure that the person is not suffering from constipation 
  • Be understanding, and encouraging with the person  
  • Try to reduce any potential sources of anxiety the person may be facing 
  • Try pelvic strengthening exercises  
  • Easy access to the toilet 
  • Consult their primary care physician for medication if the problem is severe 
  • Use appropriate Aids 

These methods are explained in more detail below and, if practiced religiously and adequately, can go a long way in helping the person deal with problems of incontinence. 

Managing Urinary Incontinence in People with Down Syndrome 

Avoid too much liquid at night if dealing with Enuresis 

Nocturnal Incontinence or Enuresis occurs when a person is unable to control their bladder while they’re asleep. If this is a common occurrence with someone suffering from Down syndrome, then try to ensure that they do not drink too much water at nighttime. Avoid giving them anything to eat or drink an hour before bedtime. However, you have to make sure that the person’s overall intake of water is not affected and that they’re drinking about eight glasses throughout the day. 

Make sure the person avoids caffeinated drinks 

Caffeine can exacerbate incontinence. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, which means that it increases the frequency of urination when consumed. Therefore, it is best for people suffering from incontinence to avoid caffeine and only stick to fresh fruit juices, healthy organic smoothies, and plain water.  

Have a healthy routine and avoid too much screen time 

Having a healthy routine with ample physical exercise and a balanced diet will help keep the person’s reflexes strong as well. Healthy neural pathways mean better control over the bladder and fewer incidents as well.  

Ensure that the person is not suffering from constipation 

Constipation can be a cause of urinary incontinence as well. Monitor the affected person’s bowel movements and their diet as well. Make sure that they are having plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure a good supply of fiber that will help to avoid constipation issues.  

Be understanding, and encouraging with the person  

Urinary incontinence can be humiliating for the affected person and severely affect their mental health as well. People with Down syndrome understand emotions well and need support and love during such hardships. Providing them with the care they need will help them be more open with you and communicate better.  

Try to reduce any potential sources of anxiety the person may be facing 

Instances of severe anxiety can cause urinary incontinence as well. Reducing stress and anxiety can make a huge difference in improving urinary incontinence. Some ways to reduce stress are by 

  • Try breathing exercises 
  • Try meditation 
  • Talk to them about their problems 
  • Listen to them 
  • Try painting therapy  

Try pelvic strengthening exercises  

Pelvic strengthening exercises are a great way to help strengthen the pelvic floor. This will, in turn, strengthen the muscles responsible for bladder control as well. Over time, such exercises can help reduce the severity of urinary incontinence, provided they are done regularly. Pelvic floor strengthening exercises include 

  • Kegel exercises 
  • Squeeze and release 
  • Bridge 
  • Squats 

Easy access to the toilet 

Sometimes, a patient can identify when they have to go to the toilet but cannot hold it in long enough till they reach the washroom. In such cases, improving access to the bathroom can help such persons have fewer incidents of incontinence. 

Consult a primary care physician for medication if the problem is severe 

If the problem is severe, and severely affects the person’s daily life, then you can ask their primary care physician to prescribe medication as well. Specific medications exist which help to relax the bladder walls and allow the bladder to hold more urine for a longer period. This can help patients suffering from incontinence greatly. However, only a doctor can decide if someone is the right candidate for medication and its type. 

Use appropriate Aids 

To help the person manage urinary incontinence, you can use some appropriate aids. These include 

  • Adult diapers 
  • Liners 
  • Pads 

Things To Avoid When Managing Incontinence  

As mentioned before, urinary incontinence can take a considerable toll on the mental health of sufferers. It is a difficult situation for everyone involved. However, being angry and shaming the person only makes the situation worse.  

Here are a few things you should avoid at all costs when dealing with a Down syndrome person suffering from incontinence: 

  • Scolding or shaming the person. This will only add to their anxiety and make the situation worse.  
  • Withholding fluids. This will end up causing dehydration and is harmful to health.  
  • Telling the person, this is their fault. It is not. This is something entirely out of their control, and this belief that they are responsible can cause extreme mental anguish for sufferers. 
  • Refusing help. It is okay to ask for help when you feel like you can’t manage things on your own. An extra helping hand or medication, if needed, will help both you and the afflicted person. Help is not a sign of weakness and should never be viewed as such.  
Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed, MD holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. An avid contributor to the Huffington Post and Chicago Tribune, Dr. Zayed believes in providing accurate and accessible information to general readers. With years of writing and editing content in the medical niche, Dr. Zayed likes to think of himself as a man with a mission, keeping the internet free of false medical information.

References 

https://aeroflowurology.com/likelihood-incontinence-syndrome/
https://www.bbuk.org.uk/blog/managing-bedwetting-in-children-with-downs-syndrome/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322720.php

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