Tips for Managing Incontinence in Your Elderly Loved OneJune 7, 2023
Though it may be embarrassing to talk about with your loved one, incontinence is a common problem among senior citizens. Roughly half of adults over 65 experience some bladder leakage from time to time—most prevalently women, people of advanced age, and those with cognitive or physical disabilities. Knowing tips for managing incontinence in your elderly loved one will help keep them comfortable.
When should I take my loved one to see a doctor?
While incontinence may just be a part of aging, it is important to speak with your loved one’s doctor any time they develop a new symptom. It could be a symptom of a larger problem, such as prostatitis or damage to the nerves that control the bladder. Alternatively, the problem could be a result of weak bladder muscles.
If you’re still uncertain as to whether or not you should take your loved one to see a doctor, a few symptoms that may prompt medical attention include:
- Sudden bedwetting or loss of control
- Inability to urinate
- Persistent skin rash that doesn’t respond to hygiene or barrier creams
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic diarrhea
What are the different types of incontinence?
Many are surprised to learn that incontinence isn’t a “one size fits all” problem. In fact, there are a few different types of incontinence that your loved one could experience.
- Urge incontinence. Occurs with the sudden need to urinate, resulting in the loss of control before arriving at the toilet. This is the most common incontinence diagnosis.
- Total incontinence. Occurs when the sphincter muscle no longer works, resulting in constant and uncontrollable leakage.
- Stress incontinence. An increase in abdominal pressure overcomes the closing pressure of the bladder. This results in abdominal pain when one sneezes, laughs, climbs stairs, or lifts objects
- Overflow incontinence. Small amounts of urine leaks from a bladder that is always full. This is most often caused by an obstruction in the urinary tract system or prostate.
- Functional incontinence. This occurs in many older adults who have normal bladder control, but have problems getting to the toilet due to arthritis or other conditions.
Understanding your elderly loved one’s specific incontinence issues will help you develop ways to manage their condition. But no matter the type of incontinence your loved ones suffers from, there are certain things you can do to help them cope with their condition.
Tips for managing incontinence in your elderly loved one
Create a bathroom schedule
Having a regular toileting schedule will drastically decrease the risk of accidents. For most individuals, the best times to go are first thing in the morning, after meals, and before bed. However, as you are first creating a schedule, you may want to take them more often and determine a schedule that fits for them.
In creating a schedule, you are also helping to condition “timed voiding,” which is a strategy that helps train the bladder like you might train another part of the body. This is especially beneficial for those with mobility issues or neurological disorders that make getting to the bathroom quickly a problem.
Consider their intake of certain foods and drinks
It’s more than just liquids that can inspire the need to use the restroom. Certain foods are actually bladder irritants, which can increase one’s need to use the restroom. Some of these irritants include caffeinated drinks, carbonated drinks, alcohol, acidic fruits, spicy foods, chocolate, tomatoes, and artificial sweeteners.
Some seniors may limit their liquid intake to avoid needing to use the restroom. This, however, can cause even more problems. Dehydration actually irritates the bladder further. So, make sure your elderly loved one is drinking the correct amount of fluids to stay hydrated.
Accidents happen. Clothes are easier to clean up, but furniture such as a mattress, a couch, or chairs are far more difficult to manage, and can cause unpleasant odors. To combat this problem, purchase absorbent mattress protectors that can be easily washed. For surfaces like the couch, spray with fabric protector and consider using seat covers.
For the sake of ease, take these protective measures on the pieces of furniture that your elderly loved one uses most often. This way, you won’t have to worry as much about cost.
Purchase products for incontinence
Your loved one may be inclined to stay holed up inside to avoid embarrassing accidents, but this doesn’t have to be the case. These days, there are plenty of quality products seniors can use to combat their incontinence. Pads, and adult diapers in more severe cases, allow seniors to move about their lives with confidence again.
It is also wise to keep an incontinence care kit on hand in case of an accident. Keep a tote bag in your car with an extra pair of underwear, pads, cleansing wipes, and a change of clothes. If something happens, your loved one won’t be trapped in soiled clothes.
Try pelvic floor muscle exercises
For some seniors, incontinence comes from weak pelvic floor muscles—and just like any other part of the body, these muscles can be made stronger with exercise. Kegels are the primary avenue to strengthen pelvic floor muscles in both men and women. Your doctor may be able to provide guidance on how to make them more effective.
Be compensated for the care you already provide
While you are happy to offer your elderly loved one the support they need to age in place, doing so can come at a price. You may have to take off time from work in order to offer your loved one the care they need, which can put a strain on your financials. Luckily, there is a way you can be compensated for the care you currently provide your loved one.
With Home Care Powered by AUAF, you can receive training that allows you to offer your loved one the highest quality care—as well as compensation. To learn more about our family caregiver program, give us a call at 773-274-9262. We would love to help.
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