Senior Care
4
min read

How To Deal With Elderly Incontinence At Home

Explore compassionate solutions for elderly incontinence, from understanding causes to treatment options, in this supportive guide.
Published on
March 8, 2024
Presented by Givers
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Accidents happen. As we age, incontinence can become difficult. Coping with leaks and bathroom accidents is embarrassing and stressful. Still, it's important to remember that this is a common issue. By discussing causes and remedies and adjusting approaches, incontinence can become a manageable part of life.

What is incontinence?

Incontinence is when a person loses control over bladder and bowel functions, resulting in unintentional urine or stool leakage. It can be challenging for aging adults, and caregivers should know how to manage the symptoms. Incontinence can cause embarrassment and discomfort for the person affected, so it's essential to be understanding and supportive. 

Treatment options, such as medication and exercises, are available, and caregivers can help their loved ones maintain good hygiene and provide emotional support. Proper care can manage incontinence effectively, allowing the person to maintain their dignity and quality of life.

Types of incontinence

There are several types of incontinence an aging adult may experience. Understanding why your care recipient experiences incontinence may help alleviate the condition or uncover a hidden health issue like diabetes or a urinary tract infection.

  1. Stress incontinence—Urine leakage happens when physical movements pressure the bladder, such as sneezing, laughing, exercising, or standing up.
  2. Urge incontinence—Sudden intense urge to urinate followed by bladder contractions and involuntary urine loss.
  3. Overflow incontinence—Leakage of small amounts of urine when the bladder doesn't empty.
  4. Functional incontinence—Urine leakage due to physical disability, external obstacles, or problems thinking or communicating that prevent getting to the toilet.
  5. Mixed incontinence —A combination of more than one type of urinary incontinence.

Take your care recipient to the doctor if they experience incontinence that seriously affects their daily life or comes on suddenly, as it could mean a severe medical condition.

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Causes of incontinence in elderly care

Various health conditions, lifestyle factors, and age-related changes in the body can cause incontinence in elderly individuals. It is essential to work closely with healthcare professionals to determine the specific causes in each case, as this will guide the most effective treatment and management strategies. Here are some common causes of incontinence in older adults:

  1. Urinary tract infections (UTIs): UTIs can irritate the bladder, leading to strong urges to urinate and, in some cases, incontinence. Elderly individuals are more susceptible to UTIs due to a weakened immune system and, in some cases, incomplete bladder emptying.
  2. Prostate problems: In men, an enlarged prostate can cause urinary incontinence by blocking the flow of urine, leading to overflow incontinence. Prostate cancer and its treatments can also affect bladder control.
  3. Pelvic floor muscle weakness: The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and urethra. Weakness in these muscles, which can result from childbirth, surgery, or aging, can lead to stress incontinence (leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, or exerting).
  4. Neurological disorders: Conditions such as Parkinson's disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, or spinal injury can affect the nerves that control bladder function, leading to incontinence.
  5. Medications: Certain medications can contribute to incontinence by increasing urine production or relaxing the bladder muscles. These include diuretics, sedatives, and some blood pressure drugs.
  6. Constipation: Chronic constipation can place pressure on the bladder, reducing its capacity and leading to episodes of incontinence.
  7. Mobility issues: Difficulty moving quickly can lead to incontinence because the individual cannot get to the bathroom in time.
  8. Diabetes: Diabetes can lead to excess urine production and damage to nerves that control the bladder, contributing to incontinence.
  9. Age-related changes: As we age, the bladder muscle can become less able to store urine, leading to increased frequency of urination and, in some cases, urgent incontinence.

When addressing incontinence in elderly care recipients, it's essential to approach the issue with sensitivity and understanding. Collaborating with their medical team is crucial to identify any underlying conditions contributing to incontinence. This collaborative approach ensures that the care plan is tailored to the individual's needs, potentially improving their quality of life and maintaining their dignity.

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Treatments for incontinence 

Your loved one doesn't have to suffer from incontinence. Many treatment options are available to alleviate their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

  1. Behavioral techniques:
    • Bladder training: Slowly increase the period between bathroom visits to improve bladder control.
    • Scheduled toilet Trips: Going to the bathroom at set times, even if there's no immediate urge.
  2. Pelvic floor exercises (kegel exercises): Strengthening the muscles that control urine flow can be beneficial, especially for stress and urge incontinence.
  3. Medications: Certain medications may be prescribed, such as anticholinergics for overactive bladder or topical estrogen for women with stress incontinence.
  4. Lifestyle changes: Managing fluid intake, avoiding bladder irritants (caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods), and maintaining a healthy weight can help.
  5. Biofeedback: Using electronic devices to monitor and train pelvic floor muscles.
  6. Pessary: Device inserted to support the bladder and reduce stress incontinence.
  7. Injections: Botulinum toxin injections into the bladder wall for some cases of overactive bladder.
  8. Surgery: When other treatments are ineffective, surgical options may include slings for stress incontinence or procedures to increase bladder capacity.

Caring for someone with incontinence can be challenging, but as caregivers, we have an opportunity to make a difficult situation more manageable. By encouraging good hygiene habits and helping our loved ones find effective incontinence products and routines, we can ease distress sources while preserving their dignity.

We must approach this role with empathy, compassion, and discretion. Our support gives greater comfort and freedom, nurturing meaningful bonds built on trust and understanding. 

With some guidance from medical professionals to determine the best treatments, caregivers can provide physical and emotional assistance to improve quality of life. While managing incontinence presents daily difficulties, a little kindness to boost confidence and autonomy can make a big difference. Working together, caregivers and care recipients can transform a sensitive subject into a shared growth and mutual care journey.

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