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What is Incontinence Care for the Elderly?

Learn about incontinence care with Seniorly. We can help you understand incontinence care for seniors and find resources on managing this common condition.

By Seniorly Editor · Updated Feb 10, 2022
incontinence-care-and-helpful-resources

Urinary incontinence is common for older adults, but that still doesn’t make it easy to deal with. In this article, you can learn about tips for seniors and caregivers dealing with incontinence.

If you are taking care of an elderly loved one, chances are at some point, urinary incontinence will become an issue. And whether you care for your loved one at their home, in a retirement community or in senior housing, it’s important for caregivers to understand proper incontinence care.

With elderly incontinence, there are both medical and social issues, so knowing what can be done to help with this sensitive issue will make everyone’s life easier.

What is incontinence?

Urinary incontinence, also called bladder incontinence, includes an involuntary loss of bladder functions, mainly through involuntary urination. There are different types of incontinence, including urge and overflow incontinence, but urinary is the most common.

While urinary incontinence is a huge clinical problem, particularly for the elderly, it is also a social problem due to the embarrassment it can cause. In fact, about half of all incontinence sufferers do not report the problem to their doctor because they’re embarrassed about it.

With elderly incontinence, there is also a myth out there that incontinence is a “normal” part of aging. That is simply not true. While age-related problems can certainly trigger incontinence in the elderly, the past decade has seen many advances made in both understanding and treating the problem for people of all ages.

How to provide incontinence care

There are many ways to care for incontinence in older adults: start with finding the proper treatment. Most importantly, tell your doctor and they will be able to help to advise on causes of elderly incontinence and come up with a plan for treatment.

If your loved one is suffering from incontinence, urge them to talk to their doctor. There are many ways the problem can be treated or managed, but only if you make their doctor aware of the issue.

Treatable causes of incontinence in the elderly

While incontinence is common in seniors, it doesn’t have to be a permanent issue. It could be a medical problem that a simple prescription can cure, like a urinary tract infection.

Other causes of incontinence in elderly include:

  • Prostate gland trouble. This affects men and may be treatable.
  • Constipation is uncomfortable but can also make both bladder emptying and “holding on” harder to control.
  • Side effects of medication can cause incontinence and medication can be changed.
  • Other bowel problems like irritable bowel syndrome can cause incontinence.

Incontinence-related skin conditions and how to prevent them

Incontinence can lead to many skin problems, but they are easily treatable if caught early enough.  Home Care Delivered, a medical supply delivery company, provides some expert-reviewed insights into the following three issues:

Adult diaper rash

Symptoms

  • Reddish area on skin
  • Inflamed or tender skin
  • Irritation or pain

Skin infections

Symptoms

  • Reddish area on skin
  • Inflamed or tender skin
  • Irritation or pain

Pressure sores

Symptoms

  • Blisters, sores, or ulcers on the skin
  • Reddish area on skin
  • Inflamed or tender skin
  • Irritation or pain

Their recent article on this subject outlines steps for prevention, the key to healthy aging for seniors.

Incontinence and dementia

One of the largest causes of incontinence in the elderly is Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Elderly people with dementia are more likely to suffer for several reasons:

  • They can’t react quick enough and get to a toilet
  • Can’t communicate the need to use the bathroom
  • Inability to find a bathroom and urinate in an inappropriate place
  • Can’t manage the physical duties of going to the toilet like undoing clothing and personal hygiene
  • Refusing to get help to go to the bathroom when they have the urge to urinate

Incontinence care and resources

Helping your loved one ensure a healthy urinary tract and bowel is a big step toward reducing the chances of incontinence.

Here are some tips from the Alzheimer’s Society on how to care for incontinence:

  • Your loved one should drink six to eight glasses of fluids each day — more if they have hard stools. Cutting down fluids or not drinking them for long periods of time can cause urinary tract infections and constipation
  • Eat a balanced diet with at least five daily portions of fruit and vegetables, and enough fiber to ensure a regular bowel movement.
  • Stay as active as possible. If they are able, walking every day helps with bowel movements.
  • Ensure regularity by allowing enough time on the toilet to empty bowels.
  • If a health professional has suggested your loved one has an overactive bladder, they will also advise replacing drinks which irritate the bladder, (like tea, coffee, and cola) with water, herbal teas, and fruit drinks.
  • Women with mild dementia and urinary stress incontinence sometimes learn pelvic floor exercises. These exercises can cure stress incontinence caused by weakness of the pelvic floor muscles due to childbirth or aging.

There are also many incontinence aids that you can purchase at retail and drug stores. Ask your loved one’s doctor about what may work best for your situation. In addition, there’s a terrific fact and care sheet you can download from the Alzheimer’s society.

Remember, your loved one needn’t suffer alone with incontinence. Reaching out for help is the first step. 

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