Managing Bowel Incontinence

Patient & Family Teaching Sheet

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What is Bowel Incontinence?

Not being able to control a bowel movement from the rectum – has many causes. Some of these include:

  • Weakness of the anal muscle
  • Dementia
  • Mobility problems
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Mental confusion

Other factors include:

  • Long-term use of laxatives
  • Not enough fluid or fiber intake
  • Lack of exercise
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Sedation
  • Very hard stool/severe constipation (may cause leakage)

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

  • Losing control of a bowel movement or blockage of bowel contents.
  • Symptoms may include:
    • Nonstop oozing of loose stools
    • Loss of appetite
    • Cramping

What to Report to the Care Team?

  • Color, looseness, and odor of the stool
  • Abdominal discomfort, cramping, or bloating
  • Medications and diet history
  • Changes in activity level
  • Skin problems in the affected area
  • Concerns and thoughts from either the patient or caregiver

What Can Be Done for Bowel Incontinence?

  • Know the person’s bowel history, which includes the usual routine, time of day, following a meal, etc.
  • Ask your healthcare team about strategies to reestablish a routine and predictable schedule for elimination.
  • Plan a bowel retraining program that is easy and fits into the person’s lifesty Your nurse can help with this.
  • Take in enough fluids and fiber, if poss
  • Determining types of fluids and fiber sources pleasing to the patient.
  • Provide ample time and privacy during toilet
  • Keep skin clean and dry to prevent breakdown and odors.
  • Avoid baby powder and cornstarch – use protective barrier creams.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing to allow for airflow.
  • Control odors with fresh air and room deodorize
  • Wear protective garments.
  • Avoid foods that act as laxatives; these include caffeine, alcohol, diet soda, and artificial sweeteners.
  • Talk to your nurse for additional information.