Incontinence and Aging

Incontinence in aging adults happens more frequently than is discussed. Advertising for incontinence products makes it less of a taboo topic.  bathroomAbout a fourth of seniors experience bladder issues and about a tenth have bowel problems. Because people may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable talking about it, they wait to seek help until it is more serious.  But, there are ways to treat and manage incontinence so discuss your ailments with your doctor.

Causes of Incontinence

Several medical disorders can cause loss of bladder or bowel control. Your physician runs tests and may find a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). He or she will know about side effects of your medications which may exacerbate incontinence. An antibiotic can clear up the UTI and other medications may be prescribed with fewer side effects.  If the cause is complicated by IBS, Multiple Sclerosis, prostate problems or other illnesses, consult a specialist.

A common reason is a weakening of the pelvic muscles as we age. Specific exercises for the pelvic floor often helps. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, incontinence occurs. The person is no longer aware when they need to use the bathroom or unable to get there in time. This is one reason why a routine is important.  Try making frequent bathroom visits and well timed ones.  Getting to the bathroom upon waking up and after meals reduces some incontinence

Managing Incontinence

If you or a loved one has bladder or bowel issues, don’t wait till they are more serious to take action.  The topic may be embarrassing or uncomfortable to talk about but the problem must be addressed to avoid bigger problems. No one should suffer in silence when there are ways to minimize and manage the condition. It is a medical condition so discuss it as such. You can find help at a Continence Clinic and contact the Bladder and Bowel Foundation for more support.

A lot of supplies are needed. Beyond adult Depends and other continence products, you will need pull-ups, pads, special underwear, wipes, mattress and chair covers. Be sure the person is properly hydrated and for bowel issues, try a more fiber rich diet. With the burgeoning Boomer population, there are more choices and products to try.  Trial and error will lead to the right products for comfort and efficiency. In extreme cases, a catheter may be needed. This will be discussed with your doctor.

Incontinence is often the tipping point for a family caregiver (spouse) to decide upon placement into an Assisted Living or Nursing Home Setting. It is so important and helpful to hire an aide to give the primary caregiver respite time. Patience and dignity are required when helping a loved one with incontinence.  Bestowing a sense of dignity to another person is one of the awesome parts of caregiving.