Incontinence is a sensitive topic. Most of us take for granted the ability to delay a trip to the bathroom. But for roughly 13 million Americans, urinary incontinence is a part of every day life. In fact, 1 in 4 women over 40 suffer from some type of urinary incontinence, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you're a caregiver, being cognizant of someone's feelings is crucial. Most people who suffer from incontinence are already embarrassed—so treating them with a little extra TLC is important. Even if you feel uncomfortable as a caregiver, make sure to not deny there is a problem. Communicating that there is a problem and overcoming emotional obstacles can help you and your loved one address the issue.
Fact: Our plumbing starts to wear out as we age. Your loved one is not trying to punish you by having accidents. Incontinence is typically the body's way of telling you something is wrong.
Here Are the Top 5 Causes of Incontinence:
- Relaxation of pelvic muscles. This is common after pregnancy—and the problem seems to progress with age. Sometimes pregnant women experience stress incontinence resulting from hormonal changes and the stress of a vaginal delivery. Changes occur that can damage the bladder, tissue and pelvic floor, which can cause incontinence.
- Changes with aging. Aging of the bladder often affects the bladder's ability to store urine and can create an increase in overactive bladder symptoms.
- Infections or inflammation of the urethra or bladder. This is an obvious one; when infections and inflammation occur, the side effect is often incontinence as tissues and organs can become enlarged.
- Nervous system disorders. Neurological disorders, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, stroke, brain tumors or spinal injuries can all influence nerve signals involved in bladder control.
- Reduced muscle control. This often accompanies menopause as women produce less estrogen, a hormone that helps keep the lining of the bladder and urethra healthy.
Educate Yourself: Set Your Situation Up For Success.
Education is important. If you suspect your loved one suffers from incontinence, take him/her to the doctor, if you haven't already. While the causes mentioned above are a possibility, your loved one may also be suffering from a urinary tract infection (read about The Unlikely Connection Between UTIs and Dementia), issues with medication or a specific medical condition, such as an enlarged prostate in a man.
4 Tips to Make Your Caregiving Life Easier
If you have visited the doctor and know that incontinence is an issue, here are some tips to help you decrease incontinence accidents:
- Set up a toileting schedule. Keep a diary of your loved one's bathroom schedule for two to three days. Once you've figured out the typical bathroom times, set up an appropriate schedule to alleviate the urge ahead of time.
- Make sure there are no obstacles. Sometimes clothing, such as buttoned pants, can make it difficult to get to the bathroom when the need arises. Also, installing handrails or grab bars, as well as investing in a bedside urinal or commode can help alleviate slowing someone down.
- Monitor fluids and caffeine before bed. This one is obvious—cut back fluid intake before bed and definitely make sure anything with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soda or chocolate, is also watched before the dusk hours.
- Invest in incontinence products. There are many comfortable incontinence products on the market today. From briefs catered to different genders (see more: men's incontinence products and women's incontinence products) and sizes, to cleansers, moisturizers and skin barrier creams to help avoid irritation—find the right products to meet your loved one's needs.
Education is king. Read about urinary tract infections and fecal incontinence to find out whether your loved one might be vulnerable.
About the author: Dana Larsen is a senior living writer at A Place for Mom, the nation's largest senior care referral service. A Place for Mom helps more than 200,000 families each year find the best assisted living and memory care facilities for their needs and budget across the United States, from Los Angeles to New York. To contact a Senior Living Advisor, visit www.aplaceformom.com, or call 1-877-311-6099.