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Caring for Elderly with Incontinence - Tips to Reduce Stress Associated with Incontinence Caregiving

Seniors with incontinence may require more assistance going to the bathroom along with medical supplies to help manage their urinary or bowel incontinence. Learning more about incontinence can help you become a better caregiver and improve your loved one’s or patient’s quality of life.

Is urinary incontinence normal with aging?

Although urinary incontinence can happen to anyone at any age, it is more common in seniors. According to the Urology Care Foundation, 1 in 2 women over the age of 65 experience bladder leaks. So yes, urinary incontinence is a normal part of aging.

Urinary incontinence in older adults becomes more common as they age. This is usually due to weakened bladder and pelvic muscles resulting in a decrease in their ability to control bladder and bowel functions. Other times, it could be a result of an underlying medical condition such as a urinary tract infection or other illness. 

What are signs of urinary incontinence in older adults?

Common tell-tale signs of urinary incontinence in the elderly include: 

  • Leaking urine when laughing, coughing, lifting objects, or partaking in physical activities
  • Inability to hold urine or bowel movements and soiling one’s undergarments
  • Experiencing a complete lack of both bladder and bowel control 

What causes urinary incontinence in the elderly?

There are many different causes of urinary incontinence in the elderly. From weakened pelvic floor and bladder muscles to underlying health conditions, urinary incontinence can be caused by several different factors. In men, urinary incontinence is most likely related to issues with the prostate. In women, urinary incontinence can be a result of childbirth, menopause, or pelvic floor atrophy. The following health issues can cause urinary incontinence in both men and women:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Constipation

How can you support the elderly who have urinary problems?

First and foremost, it is important to check with their healthcare provider to determine if there is an underlying medical condition resulting in incontinence. Seeing a primary care doctor, geriatrician, nurse practitioner, or urinary specialist may help improve their quality of life. If they are experiencing symptoms of incontinence, it is recommended for them to get a physical examination and to see if there are any treatment options available. Once a diagnosis has been made, learning more about incontinence and ways to cope are great ways to help support them.

If they do not want to see a healthcare professional, be sure to make sure they can access the bathroom easily to avoid slips and falls. Some seniors may not want to see a doctor and instead try to remedy their incontinence by using adult diapers or disposable bed pads for elderly. Using absorbent pads and washable underwear can help absorb leaks and prevent slip-and-fall accidents.

Helpful Incontinence Care Products

Purchasing products that can help absorb bladder leaks and fecal excretions can help make cleaning easier. These incontinence care products include:

What to expect at a doctor’s appointment for urinary incontinence?

Seeing a doctor for urinary incontinence may involve the following:

  • An in-depth discussion about medical history and health conditions
  • A complete physical examination
  • A urinalysis test to check for infections or blood in the urine
  • A blood test to check kidney function, blood glucose levels, and calcium levels

What to tell a doctor when experiencing urinary incontinence?

When someone has urinary incontinence, it is best to take note of the following to tell the doctor about the symptoms they are experiencing. This includes but is not limited to:

  • How often and what times they urinate throughout the day (be sure to make note of bed-wetting)
  • How much they urinate (light, moderate, or heavy)
  • A description and frequency of their accidents 
  • The types of drinks and foods they consume

How to deal with incontinence in the elderly?

Whether you are caring for a loved one or a patient, dealing with incontinence in the elderly requires a lot of patience and understanding. They may feel embarrassed, in denial about their loss of bladder control, or sometimes forgetful about going to the bathroom (if they have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia). This can add strain to their emotional well-being as they may feel helpless or self-conscious about their inability to hold in urine and the accidental leaks they experience. 

Supporting someone with urinary incontinence will involve a lot of research about their condition. This includes foods and drinks they should avoid as well as possible lifestyle changes that can help improve their quality of life. 

Type of drinks and foods people with incontinence should avoid

  • Coffee, tea, and carbonated beverages such as soda and energy drinks
  • Alcohol (such as beer and liquor)
  • Spicy foods
  • Certain acidic fruits (including lemons, limes, grapefruits, oranges)
  • Tomato-based products
  • Chocolate

Lifestyle changes to help manage incontinence 

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