Toileting support for residents with incontinence.

    Caregiver in white uniform helps senior man into a seat

    Our bodies change as we age, and this may affect our ability to stay continent. Toileting preserves the dignity and independence of your residents, which increases their quality of life. It also leads to less waste, which is more sustainable and better for the environment. Here are a few strategies to that can help make toileting easier for caregivers and prevent incontinence in your residents.

    Dos and Don’ts to facilitate toileting.

    Younger male in casual clothing supports senior resident on a walk through their home.


    Leave bathroom door open and lights on at night
    Make it easy for residents to find the bathroom at night. Try light motion sensors that turn on automatically upon entering (amber-colored lights will minimize sleep disturbances from the light).

    Mark bathroom, light switch and toilet seats with contrasting colors
    Make the bathroom door clearly visible and ensure the bathroom light switch is well marked. A colored and contrasting toilet seat, raised toilet chair or handrails, can also help with visibility and positioning.

    Pay special attention to signs that a person needs to use the bathroom
    This is particularly important when caring for people with any cognitive impairment, as they might not be able to interpret the signals from the bladder and bowel themselves or know what to do when they need to go.

    Make sure the resident’s clothes are easy to take off and put on
    Senior residents may have impaired mobility and dexterity. Accidents can be avoided with practical clothes that are easy to pull on and off. If incontinence products are required, pants are a good choice to facilitate toileting and maintain independence.

    Keep the bathroom clean, tidy and safe
    Ensure the toilet area is kept clean, hygiene articles are kept within reach, and that the person can easily call for assistance if needed.

    Praise residents and remain positive
    This is very important to be successful with toileting assistance, as it can be difficult for people to accept needing help with personal care. Promote dignity by providing privacy, and interactions that make the person feel comfortable, in control and valued.

    Woman in her 40s shows something on her phone to a smartly-dressed senior woman.


    Skip a scheduled bathroom visit
    If you skip a scheduled bathroom visit, you increase the risk of the person having an accident, which can affect their sense of dignity and self-esteem. If an accident happens, simply say something reassuring like “anyone could have an accident, I’ll help you.”

    Only help with toileting at set times
    Regular routines are good, but you should also be flexible and make sure that assistance is available when it’s needed. Continually look out for signs that they may need to go throughout the day. Most people need to go to the bathroom 4-8 times during daytime, and sometimes at night if they are over the age of 60. An average toileting schedule includes visits on waking up in the morning, after breakfast, around lunchtime, in the afternoon, in the evening and before bed.

    Replace the bathroom visit with an incontinence product
    A pad should never replace a bathroom visit. Keep encouraging and helping the resident to the bathroom when needed. If they need incontinence products, choose an individually suited product type in the right size and absorbency level, and make sure it’s attached securely to avoid discomfort and skin chafing as well as to prevent leakages.

    Icon of a person sitting on a toilet.

    More tips for emptying the bladder

    • Don’t rush. Elderly persons might have difficulties with urination, so they need to take a little longer – and change position a couple of times - to make sure the bladder is completely empty. Be patient and help them stay calm and relaxed.
    • Help the resident find a good sitting posture that facilitates emptying the bladder by supporting the feet and enabling the person to lean forward.
    • Help them stand up and sit down a couple of times to help with any difficulties emptying the bladder (this is sometimes called double or triple voiding).
    • In case the resident is frail or thin, you can use a soft pillow-ring to make the toilet seat comfortable.

    Related reading

    Audited by Josefine Grandin, District nurse, urotherapist, 2022-09-28