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March 10, 2023

Understanding Urinary Incontinence: How Does It Affect Your Senior Loved One?

As we journey through the golden years with our senior loved ones, it’s essential to understand the changes they might encounter, including the often-overlooked topic of urinary incontinence. This common condition affects millions of seniors worldwide, and by tackling it head-on, we can empower our loved ones to live life with confidence and dignity. In this blog post, we’ll unravel the mysteries surrounding urinary incontinence, discuss its impact on our seniors, and highlight ways to support their well-being.

What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence is the accidental leakage of urine. As most people know, the bladder manages storing and passing urine. When it’s time to release it, muscles inside and out of the bladder expand and relax to move the urine into the urethra. However, urine leakage and other issues can occur when muscles around the bladder don’t work the way they should.

The National Institute on Aging says that urinary incontinence happens at any age, but it is more common in senior adults, especially women.

Women who have had a baby are at higher risk for urinary incontinence, says the Urology Care Foundation. The risk increases with the number of children and using the cesarean procedure for delivery. Women who have been through menopause may also experience urinary continence due to the drop in estrogen. Unfortunately, taking estrogen has not been shown to aid this condition.

Men with prostate problems are also at risk for urinary incontinence, as well as those with diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Seniors in the late stages of Alzheimer’s may also experience urinary incontinence due to memory-linked causes: they do not realize the need to urinate, forget to go to the bathroom, or cannot find the toilet. 

What Causes Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence can be activated due to specific changes in the body due to medication, illness, or a symptom of an underlying medical condition. It can also be linked to aging. Some medicines can cause temporary bladder problems. However, when the issue persists, it could be due to several other factors, such as:

  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Overactive muscles around the bladder
  • Diseases that damage the nerves that control the bladder, such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease

How Do You Know If Your Loved One Has Urinary Incontinence?

Your senior loved one may be experiencing urinary incontinence if they have the following symptoms:

  • Pain while urinating
  • Urinating eight or more times a day
  • Releasing only small amounts of urine despite the strong urges to urinate
  • Having trouble urinating, such as producing small streams of urine
  • Urine leakage with or without small movements, such as coughing, sneezing, and laughing
  • Incomplete emptying of the bladder

What You Can Do for Your Senior Loved One

About 51% of women and 13.8% of men in the U.S. experience urinary incontinence. If your senior loved one is experiencing urinary incontinence, make sure to take a sensitive approach to their care. Observe their symptoms and talk to them about them. Most people with this condition suffer in silence, feeling embarrassed about their situation.

This medical problem can affect other aspects of senior health, too. They might fear leaving the house and being too far from the toilet. They might step away from doing their normal daily activities and, ultimately, from enjoying life to its fullest.

Urinary incontinence can be treated if unwanted urine release is not linked to any brain condition. Here are some ways to alleviate this condition and help your family member regain their health and confidence.

Observe what they eat. Some common foods may cause urinary incontinence. Acidic fruits like oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits can exacerbate the problem. Those who drink coffee, tea, soda, and other carbonated drinks may also be more prone to urinary incontinence. Check drinks for caffeine content if they consume these types of beverages. Drinking alcohol can also cause incontinence. Other foods to watch out for are sweets, tomatoes, tomato-based products, and spicy foods. Encourage your senior family member to drink the right amount of fluids and avoid food that could cause unwanted bladder release.

Schedule your bathroom visits. Having a bathroom routine can help older adults maintain bladder control until it’s time to urinate. This is especially helpful for those with dementia. Create regular intervals, with about 2 hours in between, and find the right timing that works for their body.

Waterproof communal areas in the house. Preparing the most-used corners around your house before an accident can save you much time and effort, as can waterproofing mattresses with leak-proof pads. If the leakage is severe, layer the mattress protector with another fitted waterproof cover before adding a regular fitted sheet. Choose ones that are easier to wash, and place a neutralizing spray to keep the bed from smelling. Do the same thing for couches and chairs.

Facilitate bladder control training. Physical exercises can help your senior family member manage their urine. One of those is exercising the pelvic muscles. Doing Kegel exercises can help prevent unexpected urine leakage situations. Seniors–or anyone with urinary incontinence–can strengthen their pelvic floor muscles with Kegels to help prevent embarrassing accidents in the long run.

How to perform Kegel exercises:

  1. Squeeze the pelvic floor muscles. If your loved one finds this difficult, tell them to try releasing a deep breath as they squeeze or lie down on their side. 
  2. Hold the position for 5 seconds.
  3. Release muscle tension.
  4. Repeat this process 3 times.

If you’re going out, make sure you have an incontinence kit on hand. Bring an extra set of clothes, incontinence pads or inserts, and the right amount of liquid for your senior family member to drink. Incontinence pads and inserts allow your senior family members to enjoy life outside the house without fear of an unexpected episode.

Always be kind. Urinary incontinence can be stressful for both you and your senior loved one. However, treating it as a normal part of life eases anxiety and reassures them that they are valued and loved.

Talk to your doctor about your loved one’s urinary incontinence. Your doctor may recommend some exams to help pinpoint the cause of the bladder problem. They may also advise medication to pair with your senior family member’s behavioral therapy. With your help, your senior loved one can confidently overcome urinary incontinence.

Springpoint Living at Manalapan – Assisted Living & Memory Care supports senior adults’ overall health so they can live joyfully and purposefully. With our experienced team and senior-centric amenities, your loved one will have the best care available to them in your area. Contact us today to learn more about our services. 

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