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bedwetting teenager

post #1 of 65
Thread Starter 
My nephew Nick is 13 years old and still wets the bed every night. He came to stay with us for a month last summer and while I was aware that he still had an occasional "problem" I was surprised to find out that it was every single night. At first I tried to respect his privacy and just let it be his issue to deal with. That turned out to not work out very well. Sometimes he would forget to strip the bed and wash the sheets right away in the morning, so we would be scrambling come night time for him to have clean sheets to sleep on (I only had one set of twin sheets at that time). And another thing, he had no pajamas and would sleep in his regular clothes, but even if he did wash the sheets he wouldn't necessarily put his clothes in--he would just leave them in a soggy pile somewhere (like on the hardwood floor) and then put them back on again the next day!!! His room smelled and frequently he kind of smelled too. The whole thing really stressed me out. I was mad at his mom for not taking better care of him, letting him have these bad habits. He's always been bullied at school, and it's no wonder since he goes around smelling like pee! I was frustrated with him for not seeming to care more about trying to stop. He knew about things like avoiding caffeine and not drinking huge quantities of fluid in the evening, but I would catch him filling up a 16-oz. glass of water or juice at 9 p.m. anyway! And I was frustrated with DH, who would complain to me privately about the smell and say things like, "He'll stop when he really wants to, he just doesn't want to," which I thought was uncharacteristically unenlightened of him.

I did some research on bedwetting and learned that the most current thinking is that it is almost always a sleep problem rather than an emotional or attitude problem. Kids who wet the bed at a late age just sleep very deeply and don't have the same cue to wake up from a full bladder that most people do. I really believe he can't help it. The only times he stayed dry were when I woke him up in the middle of the night, and he was really like a zombie. I had to pull him up out of the bed and walk him into the bathroom and tell him to pee. He would stumble back to bed and never remember it in the morning. Doing that was really hard on me, though, I was around 6 months pregnant and it disrupted my own sleep pattern like crazy--I would take an hour or longer to fall asleep afterwards. I kept reading about this one particular alarm that was supposed to be really effective, with a sensor that was attached to the underpants and an alarm that attached to the child's collar. It was $100 but I went ahead and bought it, thinking it would empower him to solve the problem. It didn't help. I think he mostly didn't use it, and I'm not sure why. I would go in his room after he was asleep and see it on the floor next to the bed. He went home for a visit to his mom one weekend and left it there, so we didn't even get much opportunity to see if it could help.

I asked my sister what she had done to try to help him and she said they had gone to doctors a few time sbut nothing helped. He was on a medication that worked in the beginning but then stopped working and gave him nightmares, so they quit that. He went to another doctor who recommended circumcision!!! And so she let it be Nick's choice, and he decided to do it (he was around 10). So now he is circumcised but of course that didn't help.

Okay, sorry this is a book but I am finally getting to my question. He is going to be coming to stay with us again for at least a week and quite likely longer this summer. Since we never know how long he will be with us, it is hard to come up with a plan and stick to it. If he were going to live with us for a while, I would try some other things--like chiropractic, hypnotherapy, anything. But I am hesitant to try different solutions and then have him go back to his mom's house a week later and not stick with the new thing, and end up feeling like it was another thing that just didn't work. Also we are seriously broke and I just can't pay for that stuff. I feel like at this point the only thing I can do is treat the symptoms because I just don't know how to treat the problem. The one thing I am certain of is that I don't want him peeing all over the sheets every night. It's very inconvenient with the laundry, plus he does things like fall asleep with a book and then the book gets ruined. Several other things have been ruined as well. And the smell. I try to have compassion but it really stresses me out. I am wondering if it would be a horrible thing to buy some Depends or something similar and suggest that he use them at night. Would that even work? I don't know how much volume those are designed to hold. He is taller and heavier than I am, pretty much adult-size, so we are talking about a lot of pee.
post #2 of 65
I can totally sympathize with your dilemma. My almost-12 year old ds still wets the bed frequently. It can be very frustrating. There is a homeopathic remedy for bed-wetting, but I can't remember what it's called. I tried it and it didn't work, but dh has a friend who swears by it.

To address some of your concerns: Why doesn't he strip the bed or put his wet clothes in the wash? Most likely he is accustomed to his mother doing this for him. My own ds is the same way--and it's entirely my fault for picking up for him. I think he's ashamed and just wants to escape from his bed and his room and not return until it's clean and nice-smelling. My ds always goes straight into the shower after wetting the bed, so he doesn't smell.

For your nephew's visit, I recommend that you buy a mattress bad with a waterproof backing--then you won't need to worry about your mattress. Also, see if you can get your hands on some waterproof bed pads. There are disposable ones and washable ones--try a medical supply place. Place a pad in his bed each night. If he only wets a little then you could get lucky and have only the pad get wet.

There are disposable "bedwetting pants" for bigger kids. We bought these when we went on vacation, but they LEAK, and it's kind of humiliating for the child, so I do not recommend buying these.

Good luck.
post #3 of 65
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your response, daylily. We have the waterproof mattress pad. Thanks for the suggestion about disposable bed pads, that might help.

Unfortunately his mom doesn't really take care of things for him. When I am at their apartment it's pretty smelly. She just leaves it. It's like people who live with cats who can't tell their litterbox smells. She's used to it and doesn't notice. So if he leaves the sheets wet in the morning and they've dried out by night, he just gets back in the bed. It's utterly disgusting and he has no idea. He just thinks it's normal.

Obviously there are a lot of other issues here but this is the one that I have the hardest time knowing how to deal with.
post #4 of 65
Bedwetting can't possibly be the only problem here. It sounds like this child is neglected, like child protective services level neglected.

Also like he might have some serious issues that are either cognitive or emotional. I'm not a professional, I just know a lot of 12 and 13 year old children and I can't imagine one of them allowing himself to stink of urine. It's not developmentally appropriate. I get that there might be a physiological cause for the bedwetting, I'm just talking about how the child accepts it as normal.

Has your nephew been evaluated for special education services at school? What else is happening at home?

I feel so sad for him and so relieved that there is someone like you in his life who cares about him.
post #5 of 65
Thread Starter 
I know it's shocking to most "normal" people but I don't think there is anything developmentally wrong with him. He has ADD but he's extremely bright and actually a very nice, pleasant kid to be around. Believe it or not there is a lot a person will accept as normal if they don't know different. I didn't brush my teeth for at least the first ten years of my life and it never struck me about there being anything wrong or unusual about my mouth, until I learned better. My parents just didn't teach me or care. I think my parents were definitely guilty of criminal neglect, FWIW, and CPS thought so too, but that's another story.

My sister is about a gazillion times more evolved and attentive than our parents were. I think she has some significant blind spots, but she's been a single mama to him since she was 17 and I think she tries her best. I don't overall think it is a case of criminal neglect. I have called CPS myself in her county and asked questions about what is neglect and this issue did not not their standard--it is more like, is the child being fed, does he have clothes, a place to sleep, does he go to school, if he is sick is he taken to the doctor, etc. I know it sounds so awful compared to what most people want for their own kids but I have really struggled with what would be the best situation for him and I honestly believe it is being with the mom who loves him, even with her shortcomings.
post #6 of 65
Can you talk about this issue with your sister? It sounds like you didn't have good models growing up. Maybe she needs to hear from you that this is an issue of concern so she'll take it seriously.

I'm so sorry that you grew up with parents like that. It's great that you and your sister are loving parents in this generation anyway.

I believe you that your nephew a nice kid and intelligent, but it seems like a pretty extreme thing, worth making a fuss about. The fact that a doctor thought that circumcision was even relevant blows my mind. I'm not particularly anti-circ, either--I just can't believe that was the response. It's such a socially devastating thing for him, that for adults to act like this about it seems really irresponsible.
post #7 of 65
Thread Starter 
You know, the truth is my sister wet the bed herself until age 10 or so and did the same thing. Left the sheets to dry on the bed and then slept on them again that night. I don't think even I noticed how gross it was when we were kids, and I shared a room with her! I think she also believed he would grow out of it eventually, like she did. My father did some really awful things to her to *teach* her not to wet the bed, and I think she's really bent over backwards to not shame or punish Nick...just believing eventually it would work itself out.

I was also horrified about the circumcision thing, but what could I say after it was done? She told me she let it be his choice. I'm so mad at the doctor though.
post #8 of 65
Wow, it can be an inherited thing. it seems like my friends family has thi problem for like three generations. I don't have any suggestions with stopping it. it could just be a something he has to grow out of.

In the mean time I highly recommend a zippered matress protector of the vinyl variety. yeah yeah I know, vinyl bit htey are cheap ($5 or so for a twin) fail proof, and all you have to do is wipe it down with a little vinigar water. I also recoomend chux pads (you can order them from hoiomebirth suppliers and medical suppliers) Disposable and cover the whole section of bed.

I also reccomend setting some house rules and insisting that he follow them. This is a problem and it sucks that he has to learn to deal with it but he does. If you think no drinking after a certain time would help then no drinking. If he wets the bed he needs to get in the habit of stripping the bed and putting anything with pee on it directly into the wash and geting it started, showering and then making his bed all before he does anything else for the day. After a few weeks you helping him with this he should have the routien down pretty well.

You mentiuoned waking him up helped. Do you think setting a regular alarm clock to wake him up in the night would help? Perhaps if you went in and woke him up up with it for a couple of weeks he would then be conditioned to getup himself when it went off.

Also I think you can insist on certain things without shaming. Do you feel comfortable having a frank discussion about this with him. Simply explain, matter of factly that this is a problem and you are sorry he has to deal with it but deal with it he must. Here are some ways to deal with it (changing bedding, showering in the morning, always wearing clean clothes, cleaning up after yourself) and here is why (you might not be able to smell it but other people can, I don't want to always be cleaning up after you . . . ). I mean it isn't like he thinks you don't know. You might as well bring it all up once and for all, make an agreement on how you are going to deal with it and move on from there.
post #9 of 65
One more thing...

I've read that dairy allergies are a cause of bedwetting. You could try to keep him away from dairy while he stays with you. I tried this with my ds. It was weird--he went for almost 2 months without wetting after we majorly curtailed his consumption of dairy--but then started wetting again.
post #10 of 65
Thread Starter 
lilyka, thanks for the suggestions. We are able to talk frankly about it. When I bought the alarm I demonstrated it to him by clipping the sensor to a piece of cloth and then dripping water on it with a dropper, so we could see what would happen while we were all awake and the lights were on! I wanted to make sure he understood how to use it and what would happen. I stressed that it was a medical problem so it would be clear I didn't think there was anything "bad" about him--just that he needed help waking up. He handled the conversation really well and was very interested in how the sensor and alarm worked. So I was disappointed he didn't end up making use of it.

I think I will buy the zippered cover you are talking about. We have a waterproof mattress pad with a quilted top but it has to be washed every time and it's a pain to get back on the bed. Vinyl will not be as comfortable but it will certainly be easier. I like the idea of chux pads too--if it stays on the pad we can skip washing the sheets.

daylily, that's interesting about the dairy. I think I'll try not having milk in the house when he comes. He's a big milk-drinker, and eats lots of cereal with milk too. I noticed last year that whatever I had on hand--juice, milk, soda--he would drink gallons of, but if there wasn't anything else he would drink plenty of water. Surely that's better for him.
post #11 of 65
i have a teenwith this problem, It's very embarrassing, yet she isn't always as good about showering etc as you'd think a 13 yo would be.

It is not an issue for CPS or the school. It does not meanthat he needs 'services'.

It is a sleep problem. Plain and simple. Embarrassing, inconvenient, but not serious.

Depends are out of the question. How embarrassing.

Rules. Tell him he is expected to put all his clothes and bedding in the machine, every morning, before breakfast or tv. Remind him daily. He must, MUST take a shower, every morning. You don't even have to say why, just he needs to, he's a teen.

The alarm is supposed to be the best bet. We're looking for one now. (wanna sell one?) Go to your healthfood store, the remedies usually work for a short time, anyway. One of mine used it for only a few days and never wet again! I think it helped her to remember to not sleep so soundly.

Ask your sis to see about a script. THey've changed the medication and it works so well. THe boost to their self confidence is incredible.

And he can't smell it, cause he smells it all the time. Even if your sis keeps him clean, reminds him to bath,sees that he goes to school clean, it's hard. My kids would have friends over and not change their beds!

A big hug for him, and for you. This is very hard to deal with.
post #12 of 65
Daria, it's interesting that your nephew eats a lot of cereal and milk. My bedwetting ds does the same thing. Cereal is the junkiest food in our house and ds has gotten into the habit of eating it when he doesn't like the healthier meals I provide. We gave up on restricting dairy. I wonder what would happen if I stopped buying cereal and he had to eat a more varied diet?
post #13 of 65
Thread Starter 
daylily, that would be an interesting thing to try! It was a learning experience for me that I couldn't expect Nick to consume things like cereal or soda in moderation--I had to just not have them in the house.

Red, thanks for your feedback. I really appreciate that you can relate to my experience.
post #14 of 65
Thread Starter 
Now my question with the Depends is that yes, I get that it seems embarassing, but somehow it seems like it would be less embarassing to just have one thing to throw away, than all that laundry to wash and the bed to strip and re-make. And I wouldn't expect Nick to think of or ask for something like Depends, but maybe it would make the situation easier on him. I mean he wore Pull-ups every night until he outgrew the largest size, you know? That must have been easier. But I feel like I don't necessarily know the most sensitive way to offer or suggest it.

Red, what is the newer prescription that works better? My sister has health insurance now so she should be able to take him to a doctor again to try something new.
post #15 of 65
We have the vinyl cover on our futon and it isn't bad. It was an adjustment but once I get used to it (It is dd bed, a futon, I can't imagine getting yucky stuff in that, but I amin there alot) it was not too bad.
post #16 of 65
It's called DDAVP, it's the same med as the older nosespray, but it's in pill form, doesn't need to be kept in the fridge. You adjust the dose for the individual.

One other idea that might really work for you. Throw an inflatable mattress on the box spring, put your mattress away. When it get too nasty for a simple wipe down, just take the mattress outside, sponge off with dish or laundry det. and rinse with the hose. Let sun and air dry. Great in the case of sleepovers, etc. Get the Coleman, the cheaper one won't hold up to a teen.
post #17 of 65
We're going through this with my 9 1/2 year old son. We bought the expensive alarm thingy - and he slept right through it! The sound of it could seriously wake up the dead, but there's my ds happily snoozing away.

We've also tried having several alarms go off in his room at once. Again, he slept right through them. The only thing that "works" is my getting up at midnight and walking him (still asleep) to the bathroom. He never remembers this in the morning.

Of course, he never has caffinated drinks, and he doesn't drink anything in the evening. This routine has made no difference at all, however.

He refuses to wear the Good Nights, and frankly I don't blame him. We have the mattress pad, and the rules about clean up, and he voluntarily jumps in the shower right after he wakes up. (Sometimes he pees again after the midnight pee - this happens fairly frequently, actually).

We go to a traditional homeopath, and she tweaked his remedy last time, and wants me to wait 6 months before we do anything drastic - like take him to his pediatrician. So, we're giving it the 6 months. So far, 2 months have gone by and I've seen no change in his patterns.

Also - he rarely eats dairy products. He just doesn't like them much. So in his case, I don't believe that's the culprit. He just sleeps extraordinarily deeply.

I feel somewhat discouraged after reading this thread, because I keep thinking that if the homeopathy doesn't work - then at least the Western meds might give the guy a chance to sleep dry. Sigh.

He's also uncirced, and I can't imagine having him circumcised to cure bedwetting. What was the doctor smoking? As we know, there is a strong prejudice against not circumcising boys, and some doctors will find any excuse to correct the "mistake." Sheesh.

post #18 of 65
Personally, if the doc said he was going to cut off part of my privates, I'd find that pretty motivating!:
post #19 of 65
Well, here is what worked for me:

I wet the bed every night until I was 10, and even up to age 14 I had infrequent accidents. It had nothing to do with how much I drank in the evenings, or with allergies, or with any other medical problem.

What did not work was shame and humiliation - things like telling me I wouldn't have any friends, wouldn't be able to go to sleepovers, wouldn't be able to get married, would have to wear diapers to school (it was not only a nighttime problem). Spankings did not help. Being grounded until I could stay dry for a period of time did not help. My mom had this other idea of giving me lots of fluids, then laxatives and enemas, and then locking me in the bathroom until I "produced." In spite of all that I often produced nothing, causing physical problems.

So that was when I lived with my mom...when I lived with my dad, he just didn't treat it like a big deal. He told me that every morning I should take a shower and throw my sheets in the wash. That's what I did, and I never heard a word about how I was abnormal or should be in diapers. Then he told me if I didn't wet the bed for a week, he would buy me a flashlight. It worked! Then he said go another 2 weeks and I'll buy you an alarm clock...that worked too! I lived with him for a few months and was dry the whole time.

Then back to my mom's, where it all started again. Although I think my dad must have talked to her - there were no more spankings, and I was told to wash the sheets every morning - I was still wetting just about every night. (This was when I was about 9.) She got me that alarm and sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn't. But one smart thing she did was to get the school involved - she got them to allow me bathroom access whenever I needed it, instead of being told the bathroom was for use only between classes. I was allowed to just get up and leave the room whenever I wanted. Even at home I had been told I couldn't use the bathroom at certain times - not during dinner, not until all the chores were done - and that rule was dropped as well.

Then I was back to living at my dad's, and there were no accidents. 6 months later I was back with my mom, and there were only accidents maybe every few months. I never bothered to mention these to her, I just washed the sheets when she wasn't home. The last accident I had was when I moved back in with my dad for what was supposed to be "for good" and wasn't happy about it. I was 14. My stepmom just said "I noticed your bed was wet; is that still a problem?" And I just explained that I was upset before I went to bed and that it hardly ever happened anymore, and that was the last accident.

Unluckily for my mother, when I stopped, my little brother started! He was 8 and had never had trouble with bedwetting before. And it was even worse with him; he would urinate all over his whole room while he was awake.: He said he was afraid to go downstairs to the bathroom.

So I think stress and emotional troubles really do play a role. When I was stressed, I had more accidents. When I was punished or humiliated, I also had more. When I lived in the more relaxed environment at my dad's house, the problem was infrequent or nonexistent. I was not even remotely toilet trained until age 5 and was sent to a special school for disturbed kids, and when I was there I immediately improved, but when it was time to go home I wouldn't use the toilet at all.

So the thing that helped me the most was when people didn't make a big deal of it and didn't dwell on how I was going to be an outcast forever. And of course if a kid is having troubles it's not necessarily the parent that causes them; there could be problems at school or with friends or anywhere else. Just ask!

The circ was a big mistake! I'm glad no doctor ever suggested that for me. That guy should have his license revoked.
post #20 of 65

I'm sorry your mother stressed you out so much over your bedwetting, and I'm so glad that you had an understanding dad who took good care of you when you needed it most.

I don't think, in my own son's case, that stress is the problem, though. He has never been spanked for any reason ever. We have never humiliated him, nor made a big deal of his bedwetting. He *wants* to take a shower after he's had an accident and voluntarily jumps in with no prompting from us. I do ask him to strip his bed and put the wet bedding next to the washing machine, but only just recently did this when he was big enough to do so. He doesn't seem to mind doing it.

He is homeschooled (unschooled), so he can go to the bathroom any old time he wants.

Our "discipline" methods around here are very gentle, and fall along the lines of family meetings, consensus decision making, win-win solutions, conflict resolution, empathic listening, etc. with the occasional PMS-induced rant from mom, or the occasional laying down the law from Mom or Dad, especially when safety is an issue.

In other words, my son is not stressed in any way. And he still wets the bed. I really do think it is sleep-related. He doesn't seem embarrassed about it yet, and has gone to sleep-overs, but I think as time goes on, he'll feel more and more self-conscious about it.

Still crossing my fingers that the homeopathy will work!

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