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Increased frequency of urination can be caused by physical changes due to ageing or a medical condition. If it's not managed, incontinence can occur. This can become an embarrassing problem for the person concerned, but there is help available.  

There are numerous products that can help manage or relieve symptoms of the condition. Additionally, small adjustments to the home and bathroom can be beneficial.

This page contains information on:

1. Seeking help from a GP
2. Incontinence products
3. Bathroom adaptations

Seeking help from a GP

If your relative is experiencing increased frequency of urination or pain on passing, it’s important to speak to a GP. They will be able to diagnose or rule out any underlying medical condition and provide treatment. It may be that an infection can be treated with a course of antibiotics, or it could be related to the use of current medication.

If the issue persists, your relative may need the assistance of a specialist to manage their condition. You should ask for a referral to a continence nurse, who will be able to provide a personalised approach to self-management.

Incontinence products

Many products are available that can help people who are living with incontinence. Disposable products (including pads, which help to prevent discomfort and rashes) can be used on a daily basis. Washable underwear and nightwear products are available. It's also possible to get incontinence pads on prescription, but likely only up to four pads a day. Regular delivery can be set up.

It may also be necessary to consider bed and chair protection, such as chair pads or mattress protectors. These are usually machine washable and are available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

It’s also possible to buy special underwear, or bed alarms that alert you or a careworker if there has been an accident. 

As well as using these products in the home, you will need to bear them in mind if you are out and about. You may think about keeping a supply of pads in your car ready for trips, for example, and it may be worthwhile applying for a Radar key, which is a large, universal key that opens disabled toilets throughout the UK.

Bathroom adaptations

If your relative has mobility issues and uses walking equipment to get around, the first thing to do is to check the access to the lavatory in the home. 

  • Are there any potential hazards, such as steps or furniture? 
  • Is the lighting adequate in or around the bathroom? 
  • Is there a bathroom on every floor of the property and, if not, is it easy enough to get to from every part of the home?

Urine bottles or a commode can help in the short term, alleviating immediate concerns while you consider other solutions such as the installation of a second bathroom. Your relative might be able to get financial support from the local authority or elsewhere for such adaptations: see Financing home alterations.

If your relative uses mobility equipment, make sure there is adequate space for it in and around the bathroom or toilet cubicle. Simple alterations - like changing the direction a bathroom door opens, for example - can make all the difference.

If there is no convenient way to install another toilet using the existing water facilities, a wide range of lavatories is available with built-in macerators and pumps, which can drain to waste pipes.

It may be necessary to make some adaptations to the bathroom, such as providing handrails and ensuring the height of the toilet seat is appropriate. Read more about bath aids and adapting bathrooms in Which? product reviews for staying independent at home.

More information

  • Dressing and washing: advice on helping your relative to dress and wash, including examples of aids that are available.
  • Talking about care options: having conversations about care options with your relative isn’t always easy. Read our guide for suggestions and advice.
  • Domiciliary care: find out what kinds of home care services are available to you and your relative.

Page last reviewed: November 2016
Next review due: May 2018