One of the most common health concerns that affects seniors is also one of the least openly discussed: incontinence. Incontinence in seniors is more common in women than in men, but it affects many older adults.
There are a variety of reasons incontinence may occur. In the short term, irritation or infection, constipation, and urinary tract infection can all contribute to incontinence. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common in older adults than they are in younger people, and the symptoms may present differently. The usual burning, pelvic pain, frequent need to urinate, fever, and chills may be present, but these symptoms may be easily confused with other health issues. In addition, senior adults with UTIs may be at an increased risk for falls, decreased appetite, lethargy, and incontinence.
Longer-term causes of incontinence in seniors can include:
- Weak or overactive bladder muscles
- Damage to the nerves that control the bladder from diseases like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or Parkinson’s.
- Weak pelvic floor muscles
- In men, blockage from an enlarged prostate
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Complications from diseases such as arthritis that make it difficult to make it to the bathroom on time.
Incontinence in seniors can also particularly affect those in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Accidents may occur when the individual forgets they need to use the bathroom, misses bodily cues, or cannot find the restroom.
Here are a few simple tips to minimize incontinence in senior loved ones.
- Limit the intake of caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and soda, which increase urination, but ensure your loved one stays hydrated with plenty of water.
- Encourage your loved one to try out pelvic floor exercises such as Kegels to strengthen the muscles used to prevent urination.
- Try timed voiding, which sets a frequent urination schedule. As bladder control is regained, then you can try spacing out bathroom breaks further.
- Consider lifestyle changes that may help prevent incontinence. This can include losing weight, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, eating in a way that prevents constipation, and avoiding heavy lifting.
There are a number of medications and surgical procedures that can limit or prevent incontinence in seniors as well. As with any health concern, it’s best to talk to a loved one’s doctor to get a sense of all the treatment options before making any changes to his or her routine.
If an older loved one would benefit from an extra pair of hands around the house to help with caregiving needs, consider partnering with Aware Senior Care. Aware Senior Care, a division of Home Care Assistance, can provide a caregiver in Cary or the nearby areas who can help a senior set a bathroom schedule, stick to healthy lifestyle changes, and more. From light housekeeping to planning and preparing nutritious meals to transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, our compassionate and highly trained caregivers are here to help. To get started, reach out to us online or give us a call at (919) 436-1871 to schedule a free in-home assessment. We promise to treat your loved one with the same respect and dignity we would extend to our own family members.