Published: Nov 15, 2016
Bladder incontinence is a highly prevalent disease that not only affects a senior’s health, but impacts their daily lives emotionally, socially, and economically. With a rapidly growing senior population, more people will experience incontinence - however, it is not an inevitable part of aging.
What happens: The body stores urine in the bladder, a hollow organ much like a balloon. During urination, muscles in the bladder tighten to move urine into a tube called the urethra, while the muscles around the urethra relax and let the urine pass out of the body. When the muscles in and around the bladder don’t work properly, urine can leak. Incontinence can occur for short periods of time due to urinary tract infections, constipation, or as a side effect of a medication.
When leaking urine lasts longer, it may be due to:
Urinary incontinence diagnosis: Your loved one may feel embarrassed by accidents and the use of absorbent pads or protective underwear, which, in turn, could trigger a reluctance to visit the doctor. Or there could be some confusion about which specialist to see. But stress to your loved one that the best reason to see a doctor is that senior urinary incontinence is quite treatable. If your loved one feels comfortable with his or her primary care doctor, start there. Women can also find a urogynecologist, while men could visit a urologist; either can see a geriatrician, or a nurse practitioner who specializes in incontinence issues.
What to expect: A urinalysis to rule out infection or blood in the urine; blood tests to check on kidney function, calcium and glucose levels; a thorough discussion of one's medical history; and a complete physical exam, including a rectal exam and a pelvic exam for women, and a urological exam for men. The doctor may prescribe a medicine that calms muscles and nerves to treat an overactive bladder. If leakage is caused by weak muscles, the doctor or nurse can suggest exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles. The doctor may fit a woman with a device worn in the vagina that helps lift the bladder. If other treatments fail, surgery may be suggested to improve bladder control.
What caregivers can do to help: Avoid giving drinks like caffeinated coffee, tea, and sodas that increase urination, but don’t limit water; keep pathways clear and the bathroom clutter-free with a light on at all times; make sure there are regular bathroom breaks; if there is a tendency to leak urine at certain times of the day, trips to the bathroom ahead of time can help; supply underwear that is easy to get on and off; and use absorbent underclothes for trips away from home.
Discussing it with your loved one: Find a time when you and your loved one can be alone together, and discuss the subject with sensitivity and clarity. This is a dignity issue. Help your loved one understand that dignity is very important to both of you.
Comfort Keepers® can help. We offer a wide range of in-home care services ranging from personal care to companionship. Our services can include bathing, grooming, and hygiene; mobility assistance; toileting and incontinence care; dementia care; meal preparation; household tasks; and more. Call your local office today!
A Place for Mom. “Elderly Urinary Incontinence: Causes & Care.” Web. 2016.
AgingCare.com. “Urinary and Bowel Incontinence for the Elderly and Aging.” Web. 2016.
WebMD. “Over Half of Seniors Plagued by Incontinence: CDC.” Web. 2014.
AgingCare.com. “How to Approach the Subject of Incontinence and Adult Diapers with an Elderly Parent.” Web. 2016.
NIH National Institute on Aging. “Urinary Incontinence.” Web. 2016.