There are many health topics that face us as we journey down the aging process.
One of the hot topics is elder incontinence. It is a seemingly embarrassing topic for the elderly person experiencing incontinence and for the family member trying to help. Incontinence is a difficult and emotionally fraught problem that needs to be addressed. When the thought of “having an accident” or “wetting the bed” is spoken about, automatically, a child is pictured. However, this is also a large concern and problem for the elderly.
According to the National Association for Continence, one in five individuals over the age of 40 suffer from an overactive bladder, some of whom leak before reaching a restroom, and over 50% of nursing home care residents have urinary incontinence. This is clearly a health issue for the elderly and should be addressed.
Although your loved one will most likely feel embarrassed by his or her accidents and would like to avoid talking about it to you, the doctor, we urge that you speak to a medical professional as elderly urinary incontinence is a treatable condition. Your elderly loved one should schedule an appointment with their primary care physician, a nurse practitioner, or a urology specialist to discuss elderly urinary incontinence. If your loved one does not feel comfortable with their primary care physician, you can easily find a nurse practitioner who specializes in elderly incontinence issues.
During the check-up, you can expect the following to occur: a thorough physical exam, a urinalysis (to rule out blood or infection in the urine), and a blood test (to test kidney function and blood levels). Based on the findings of the tests, many solutions and treatments exist for elderly urinary incontinence. For the majority of the elderly who suffer from urinary incontinence, it is 100% treatable.
The easiest and most sought-after treatment for elderly incontinence is the use of diapers or pull-ups. Most seniors find that using pull-ups is the easiest because they are most similar to underwear and come in gender-specific versions. Also, women can use panty liners as protection for elderly incontinence.
Other Treatments for Elderly Urinary Incontinence
Behavioral Therapy: Scheduled bathroom trips, pelvic floor muscle exercises, and fluid and diet management. The best feature of behavior treatment for an elderly person who suffers from incontinence is that there are no side effects! A simple and effective treatment for elderly incontinence is Kegel exercises or exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. These exercises strengthen the pelvic muscles using repetitive contractions, not unlike weight training exercises in other muscle groups. The exercises involve contracting the pubococcygeus muscle, or the muscle used to hold back the flow of urine in the elderly. This muscle can be identified by trying to stop the flow of urine halfway through urination while seated on the toilet.
Medical Devices: The most common are urethral inserts which are tampon-like inserts that a woman places in her urethra, usually during activities when her incontinence occurs. An elderly woman simply removes it when she needs to urinate.
Surgery: Although surgery is a last resort, it is an option to help treat elderly urinary incontinence. Surgery may be necessary if the patient’s pelvic muscles have weakened significantly and the bladder is bulging into the vagina.
Elderly incontinence is stressful but usually treatable. It is important for the home caregiver to report all signs of elderly incontinence and perhaps take the lead in encouraging your elderly loved one to seek medical attention. At Alvita Care, we encourage families to talk openly and honestly about elderly incontinence as it does not need to be a cause for shame. On the contrary, it should be viewed as a common medical problem that occurs as a normal part of the aging process.