Establishing a toileting routine for an elderly family member or friend is important. They know when it’s time to go to the toilet and reduces the risk wetting or making a mess on the bed or chair.
It also prevents toilet emergencies. If they are pressed, it is unsafe to rush them to the toilet.
So how many times should the elderly use the toilet?
This can be hard to decide because only them can tell when they need to use the bathroom. The best thing is to come up with a constant schedule such as every three hours or after every meal.
The time between toilet visits depends on their health, diet and other factors.
For instance, some seniors need to go every hour to avoid accidents. Others can do with a two-hourly routine.
Generally, bathroom visits to pee need to be more frequent especially if they are taking a lot of water or fluids. Every 2-4 hours is ideal depending on fluid intake.
For defecating, you can schedule toilet visits an hour or so after meals or at specific times of the day when they usually feel the need to empty their bowels.
But be careful not to wait until they feel an urgent need to use the toilet. As I mentioned, the rush to get there increases the risk of an accident.
Consider Health and Medication
When you are coming up with a workable schedule, consider whether any illness they might have or the medication they are taking might affect their toileting routine.
For instance, some diseases affecting the kidney or urinary bladder can cause a constant need to urinate.
Certain medications can too. For example, medications containing caffeine can stimulate the bladder, causing more frequent bathroom visits.
Other medications can have a laxative effect, meaning they probably need to use the bathroom soon after meals.
Change the Schedule as Needed
They’ll probably not follow the same routine for months or years.
As they age and their health deteriorates, you need to adapt the schedule to their needs.
For instance, incontinence becomes more common with age. You may need to increase the frequency of bathroom visits to avoid accidents.
Their diet may also change with time, causing more bowel movements.
However, if you notice sudden changes in their routine, there could be a problem.
If they ask to urinate too frequently or wet themselves between bathroom visits, talk to your care provider.
If their bowel movements reduce, it might be a sign of constipation. Make sure they are eating foods high in fibre and taking in enough fluids.
If the problem persists, talk to your doctor.
How to Deal with Accidents
Accidents are normal and you can expect them to happen occasionally even when you have a toileting schedule.
Help them get out of the wet clothes and assure them that it’s okay.
However, frequent accidents even when you are on a schedule are not normal.
The first thing to check is whether you need to adjust your schedule to increase the frequency of bathroom visits.
Medications or an illness may also be causing the accidents. Talk to your care provider for a diagnosis and recommendations.
Diet also has an effect.
Drinking too much citrus juice, alcohol or caffeine-containing beverages can irritate the bladder and cause frequent urination.
Cut back on these liquids and have them drink more water to keep the urine dilute.
If the accidents persist, see a doctor. Incontinence in the elderly is often treatable.
Making Toilet Visits Easy and Safe
It’s important that they stay safe when visiting the toilet.
If they cannot walk to the toilet or are bedridden, use a suitable bedpan or a bedside commode instead.
But if they can get to the toilet with you support, install a raised toilet seat to make it easier for them to lower and raise themselves.
For safety, keep the toilet area dry and clutter-free.
They may also need help with wiping. Put on a pair of gloves and wash your hands after you finish.
Through all this, constant communication is essential. Explain every action you do and what you want them to do.
Also ask them to tell you if they experience any pain or difficulty especially when using the toilet. It can be a sign of a health problem.