Incontinence in Older Adults

While not uncommon, urinary incontinence in older adults is a challenging condition to manage, impacting day-to-day life in many ways and frequently leading to lower self-confidence and assurance, plus the limiting of rewarding activities.

However, it is essential to recognize that urinary incontinence in older adults is not something that needs to simply be accepted as a typical part of aging. Determining the root cause of the problem may result in a simple yet effective treatment option. Contributing factors to bladder control problems include:

  • A urinary tract or vaginal infection
  • Constipation
  • Overactive or weakened bladder muscles
  • Pelvic organ prolapse or weakened pelvic floor muscles
  • Nerve damage from conditions including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, or MS
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Medical conditions which make it harder to make it to the restroom in time, such as arthritis

An older adult going through difficulties with incontinence should visit with the doctor to go over symptoms, medications, and health history. He or she may recommend blood and urine tests as well as testing to decide how effectively the bladder is emptying. Maintaining a daily journal ahead of the appointment can be helpful, observing the specific times of day when urinating and when leaking urine.

After the cause for the incontinence has been discovered, treatment plans may include:

  • Oral medications which can tighten muscles or help the bladder empty fully
  • An injected medication to the area surrounding the urethra
  • A low-dose estrogen cream
  • Nerve stimulation around the bladder
  • A urethral insert or pessary in order to prevent leaking
  • Surgery in the event the incontinence is caused by blockage or a change in the bladder’s position

Furthermore, some incontinence issues may be relieved by trying:

  • Kegel (pelvic muscle) exercises
  • Biofeedback
  • Timed urination, emptying the bladder on a set schedule
  • Lifestyle changes, such as eliminating caffeine and alcohol, quitting smoking, and losing weight

Frequently, those diagnosed with urinary incontinence falsely believe that they need to limit their fluid intake. It is crucial to maintain proper hydration and to recognize that lower hydration levels lead to more concentrated urine, which actually will make urinating more uncomfortable while increasing problems with incontinence. Plain water is always the smartest choice, but if the older adult prefers, try adding flavoring, for example, a slice of cucumber or citrus fruit.

For an older adult with Alzheimer’s disease, especially in the later stages, incontinence is particularly common, and can be helped by:

  • Making it easier to get to the restroom by ensuring pathways are clear and there is sufficient lighting
  • Cutting out coffee, soda, and tea from the senior’s diet, as these increase urination (but ensuring the senior drinks adequate water)
  • Taking frequent, regular bathroom breaks
  • Choosing clothing that is simple to remove
  • Experimenting with different types of incontinence care products to find one that is most comfortable

Anthem Home Care’s aging care experts are trained and experienced in incontinence care, and are available to help offer recommendations as well as in-home care to assist with personal care needs, discreetly and always with the utmost respect. Email us via our online form or give us a call at 361-643-2323 to ask about a free in-home consultation to learn more about our Portland senior care team and the surrounding communities we serve.