Managing incontinence as you get older

Managing incontinence as you get older
11 June 2024

Managing incontinence as you get older

Incontinence issues are a common challenge for elderly people, affecting their quality of life in a major way. The loss of bladder control, also known as urinary incontinence, leads to unexpected urine leaks and the inability to reach the bathroom in time. Then there’s bowel incontinence, which can bring about challenges when it comes to comfort and dignity. 

Although continence control certainly becomes more common as you age, it’s not something that should be expected. If you’re looking for ways to improve your continence or that of a loved one or are looking for simple ways to manage it on a daily basis, then read on. 

This blog post will take a look at the wide range of incontinence issues that elderly folk face. Understanding the risk of incontinence and its causes can help you manage or even avoid these problems, getting you or a loved one back to better bowel or bladder health. 

We will cover the different types of urinary incontinence, their causes related to elderly age, and how to manage symptoms.

Common Types of Incontinence in Elderly People

Before getting into how to spot and manage it, let’s look at the different kinds of urinary incontinence and bowel incontinence that tend to affect elderly people. 

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence involves a sudden, intense urge to urinate, followed by an involuntary leakage of urine. This type of incontinence is often caused by nerve damage or health conditions commonly seen in elderly people, like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence occurs when physical activities such as coughing, sneezing, or lifting place pressure on the bladder, leading to urine leakage. This type of incontinence is common among elderly people, especially women who have given birth or undergone surgical procedures. 

Overflow Incontinence

Overflow incontinence happens when the bladder doesn’t empty completely, causing a frequent dribbling of urine. This condition can result from nerve damage, diabetes, or an enlarged prostate in men.

Functional Incontinence

Functional incontinence is when a person cannot reach the toilet in time due to physical or mental impairments. This type is often linked to health conditions like arthritis or Alzheimer’s disease.

Mixed Incontinence

Mixed incontinence is a combination of multiple types, typically stress and urge incontinence. Elderly patients with mixed incontinence experience symptoms of both, complicating their medical history and treatment plans.

How can elderly people manage incontinence? 

For elderly people to manage their incontinence, several lifestyle changes might need to be made, including exercises and strengthening activities. However, medical treatments might often be a more reasonable option given the more limited mobility of some elderly folk. Changes to diet can also be a feasible solution to some incontinence woes. 

Monitor your fluids 

Keeping an eye on fluid intake is a large part of managing urinary incontinence. However, it’s a tricky balance to make for anyone, not just elderly people with urinary incontinence. Not only do you need to drink the right amount to stay hydrated, but you shouldn’t drink so much to overload your bladder and force more trips to the bathroom. 

At the same time, consider cutting out liquids that irritate your bladder, such as coffee and alcohol. Although a good way to spend a morning or evening, they can cause unwanted loss of bladder control throughout the day or after you’ve settled for bed. 

Avoid irritating foods 

Similar to caffeine and alcohol in drinks, you should reduce the amount of spicy, oily, and fatty foods you eat daily. These foods can have adverse effects on the stomachs of people of all ages, not just those with incontinence struggles. Keep your diet full of fibrous fruits and vegetables so all the relevant organs and muscles are in good shape and under minimal strain. 

Bladder/kegel training 

If you’re able, you could consider trying bladder training. This involves gradually increasing the time between toilet visits to improve bladder control. Create a regular bathroom schedule to prevent accidents and maintain routine. 

Then there are pelvic floor exercises - aka Kegel exercises - which can be done to strengthen the pelvic muscles and improve bladder control. Fortunately, kegel exercises don’t require too much stress or strain on the body - simply tensing the pelvic floor muscles for a few minutes a day. If you’re able, try to stay as active as possible through more general exercises so you don’t put on excess weight, as this can put unneeded strain on the bladder and pelvic floor. 

Medical treatments

Medical intervention is also a common way to manage incontinence symptoms. Medications prescribed by a healthcare professional like a GP can go a long way to managing an overactive bladder, improving urine flow, and more. 

Medical devices like pessaries or urethral inserts can provide much-needed support for severe cases, offering relief and improving quality of life. No matter which medical solution you try, discuss a tailored management plan with a healthcare professional so your individual needs and medical conditions are met effectively. 

Managing incontinence for the elderly with Incontinence Shop 

Urinary and bowel incontinence can become increasingly common for many people as they age, affecting their quality of life and day-to-day confidence. But through this combination of lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, medications, and exercises, you can confidently manage your incontinence, free from the constant worry of leakage.

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