What is Functional Incontinence?

First things first, what even is incontinence? Urinary incontinence refers to the involuntary or accidental leakage of urine, and it affects around 200 million people worldwide.

It is a common condition that can range in severity from occasional light leakage to complete loss of bladder control, and it can affect people of all ages! Although it can affect anyone, of the 25 million adult Americans that deal with urinary incontinence, 75-80% of those are women.

Now lets get into the nitty gritty: urinary incontinence actually comes in various types: Stress, overflow, mixed, and functional.

In this post we will be focusing on functional incontinence, diving into what it means, who it affects, and offering our tips and tricks to help manage this condition.

What is Functional Incontinence?

Functional incontinence refers to a type of urinary or fecal incontinence where a person is unable to reach the toilet in time due to physical or cognitive limitations, despite having normal bladder or bowel control.

It is often associated with conditions that impair mobility, dexterity, or cognitive function, making it difficult for the individual to recognize the need to urinate or make it to the bathroom.

So, its not so much an issue relating to the bladder or nerves controlling the bladder as with other types of urinary incontinence, but it is rather the inability to make it to the bathroom on time or to notice that you need to urinate.

Who Is Prone to Functional Urinary Incontinence?

Functional urinary incontinence can occur in various situations, such as in elderly individuals with mobility issues, individuals with physical disabilities, or people with cognitive impairments like dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Heres a list of groups of people that may be more prone to functional incontinence:

Elderly individuals

As people age, they may experience mobility issues, arthritis, or other conditions that can affect their ability to move quickly or navigate to the bathroom.

Individuals with physical disabilities

People with physical disabilities, such as paralysis, limb amputation, or motor impairments, may face challenges in reaching the toilet due to limited mobility or dexterity.

Individuals with cognitive impairments

Conditions like dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or intellectual disabilities can impact a person's ability to recognize the need to use the bathroom or remember the location of the toilet.

Stroke survivors

Stroke can result in physical disabilities, such as hemiplegia or balance problems, which can make it difficult for individuals to reach the bathroom in a timely manner.

Individuals with neurological conditions

Certain neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, or spinal cord injuries, can lead to mobility limitations and affect the individual's ability to control bladder or bowel function.

Individuals with mental health disorders

Some mental health conditions, like severe anxiety or agoraphobia, may cause individuals to avoid or delay going to the bathroom, leading to functional incontinence.


Disclaimer: It's important to note that incontinence can occur in people of all ages and can be temporary or chronic, depending on the underlying cause. If functional urinary incontinence is affecting you or someone you know, consulting a healthcare professional can help determine the cause, explore possible options to treat functional urinary incontinence, and develop a tailored plan for your needs.

    Tips and Tricks

    The good news is, managing functional urinary incontinence may be a little easier than managing other types of urinary incontinence, seeing as addressing the underlying cause and providing appropriate support and assistance can definitely help the individual maintain any involuntary loss of urine or fecal matter.

    Here are our five tips and tricks for you or someone you're caring for that assist in the management of this condition:

    Prioritize Accessibility

    Ensure that the bathroom is easily accessible. Remove any obstacles or hazards that may hinder or delay reaching the toilet. Consider installing grab bars, handrails, or raised toilet seats to aid mobility. Make other necessary modifications in the home environment too, perhaps including installing nightlights to enhance safety and ease of use.

    Consider Clothing That is Easily Removable

    Choose clothing that is easy to remove and put back on, such as pants with elastic waistbands or Velcro closures. Avoid clothing with complicated buttons or zippers that can be challenging to manipulate.

    Take Timed Toilet Breaks

    This is a great way to avoid accidents! Establish a regular schedule for toileting breaks, even if there is no immediate urge to use the bathroom. This proactively empties the bladder or bowels at specific intervals before any leaks have the chance! PRO TIP: Utilize alarms, timers, or smartphone apps to provide these reminders for regular bathroom breaks so you can set your schedule!

    Use Assistive Devices

    Depending on the individual's needs, there are many assistive devices like canes, walkers, or wheelchairs that can improve mobility and independence in reaching the bathroom in time.

    Keeping Incontinence Products on Hand

    Having incontinence products available such as pads, briefs, or adult diapers is an effective way to manage accidents and can provide a sense of security and comfort.

      WellBefore and You

      Managing functional urinary incontinence doesn't need to be stressful! Installing grab bars in the bathroom, using assistive devices like walkers or wheelchairs, providing reminders or schedules for toileting, or working with healthcare professionals to develop an individualized treatment or care plan could all contribute to the successful management of functional urinary incontinence.

      In the meantime, consider exploring the wide range of incontinence products that many people utilize to help keep their daily and nightly routines simple. From adult diapers to pads, WellBefore is your one-stop shop for all things to help make the management of functional urinary incontinence much easier.

      Interested in learning about other types of incontinence? See more resources below.