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Managing Urinary Incontinence in the Home

As seniors age, many things come into play - safety in the home and out, health conditions seniors face, the emotional ups and downs when dealing with the normal aging process, including the loss of loved ones. Whether someone is caring for an elderly relative or being employed to care for a senior, it is critical to the senior's health and well-being for the caregiver to be sensitive to these issues and to interact in such a way that helps foster independence in the home for as long as possible.

Sometimes, this interaction is easy. Participating in activities such as playing games, walking in the park or cooking and eating with seniors keeps them engaged and fosters feelings of worthiness and self-esteem. However, a caregiver's duties may stretch beyond those fun-filled moments and extend into the realm of uncomfortable topics. One such topic that is of concern among seniors is urinary incontinence.

Incontinence may be tough to tackle and downright embarrassing for seniors, but it is important for caregivers to take a proactive approach to help seniors recognize and successfully deal with the condition. While many seniors may believe incontinence is a sign of the normal aging process, this is not necessarily true. Medical conditions and some medications can cause involuntary loss of urine. Women generally suffer incontinence due to weakened pelvic muscles. Enlarged prostate glands are often the cause of incontinence for men.

It is important for seniors to discuss issues of incontinence with their doctors, as incontinence is a symptom, not a disease itself. Understanding the different types of incontinence is crucial. Stress incontinence occurs during moments of laughter, sneezing, bending or lifting. Urge incontinence is caused by sudden bladder contractions causing an urgent need to urinate. Sometimes the bladder is unable to hold urine, causing involuntary overflow of urine. Functional incontinence occurs in seniors with dementia who may forget to use the restroom, or in those with impaired mobility who are unable to reach the toilet in time.

The good news is there are ways incontinence can be treated and managed so seniors can continue to pursue active and happy lifestyles. The following are a few treatments that may be suggested and performed under a doctor's care.

  • Strengthen pelvic muscles by performing Kegel exercises - the tightening and releasing of the muscles that control urine. Stronger muscles in this area enable seniors to hold urine in their bladders for longer periods of time.
  • Teach seniors to become more aware of their bodies' signals, which aids in the training of strengthening pelvic muscles. 
  • Chart voiding and leaking times to help seniors, including those with dementia, determine specific times they should use the restroom.

There are other factors that can contribute to incontinence. Alcohol and caffeine can cause incontinence in later years and exacerbate the problem once it surfaces. Excessive fluid intake and consumption of spicy foods, highly acidic foods such as tomatoes, citrus fruits and juices may contribute to the problem. Encourage seniors to pay attention to the foods they eat to determine if certain food affects their incontinence. Limit fluid intake before bedtime. Make sure bathrooms are easily accessible.

If none of the above techniques help, there are medications available to treat some types of incontinence. Temporary, disposable devices can be used to insert in the urethra to stop involuntary urine flow. The use of adult incontinence pads or briefs can provide seniors the freedom to enjoy active lifestyles.

Learning about incontinence and its causes can help seniors successfully manage the condition. The first step is to encourage seniors to talk about their issues to help determine factors that contribute to their incontinence. Work together to find solutions that aid in alleviating incontinence and the embarrassing moments it may cause. By doing so, caregivers help to create positive attitudes and environments that cultivate happiness and well-being for the seniors in their care.

References
Schneider, Adina. MD. Managing incontinence in the elderly. Retrieved on February 4, 2012 from sci.rutgers.edu/forum/showthread.php?t=14494.
Sollitto, Marlo. How to control incontinence. Retrieved on February 4, 2012 from agingcare.com/Articles/managing-incontinence-144710.htm.
Managing Incontinence in the Home - document outline provided by Comfort Keepers.

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