Causes Of Elderly Incontinence
As we get older in life, there are certain medical conditions that are more prevalent, and incontinence falls into that category. A recent study discovered that at least 50 percent of residents in British and American nursing homes suffer from urinary incontinence [researchgate.net].
Whether you are approaching your later years or are in the process of caring for an elderly friend or relative, it is vital that you are fully informed about the causes of and the solutions to dealing with incontinence. This article aims to provide the reader with as much information as possible so that you can make an informed decision about any treatment, and also to give you hope that incontinence does not need to be a life-changing condition.
A common misconception is that incontinence is an inevitable consequence of old age, but the reality is that age itself has no direct link to incontinence. However, physical changes in the body as a consequence of aging can lead to a person losing the ability to control their bladder.
Some common issues that occur with age include a reduction in the volume capacity of the bladder, or as the bladder muscles weaken they are less efficient at removing all of the urine when an elderly person visits the toilet. This is known as residual urine, and this then causes the bladder to fill up again more quickly. This, in turn, can then lead to or contribute to urinary incontinence.
There are numerous other reasons why elderly people can develop incontinence; physical health as a result of a fall for example, a broken hip for anyone is painful but for the elderly it can cause other problems such as the inability to control the bladder.
The onset of dementia has a huge impact on elderly incontinence, there are numerous reason attributed to this, these include;
- The individual not being able to react quick enough after the sensation in needing the toilet.
- The individual forgetting how to effectively use the toilet facilities.
- The individual not being able to tell their carer that they need the toilet due to communication issues.
Men and women can also have separate causes, with prostate issues affecting male incontinence and menopause linked to female incontinence. In all instances of incontinence, it is imperative to visit the doctor and discuss the issues.
The forms of treatment will be many and varied depending on the diagnosis and the reasons behind the incontinence, so although many people may be too embarrassed to visit their GP, as a carer it is essential that the issue is forced. In the worst case scenario incontinence could even be the first symptom of a much more severe health issue.
How Is Incontinence in The Elderly Treated?
With so many different causes of incontinence in an elderly person, there is unlikely ever to be a single form of treatment. The first thing that a doctor would do is assess the underlying cause of the incontinence. If for example, the patient has been diagnosed with dementia then bladder treatment is unlikely to be offered as the cause is more to do with the symptoms of the disease.
If the diagnosis is an overactive bladder, then there are different courses of treatment, these may include changing the persons diet as certain food and drink types will exacerbate the condition. Another simple and easy to implement solution to help reduce accidents is to keep a diary of the times when a person normally needs to visit the bathroom. Most people whether they realise it or not have almost developed a pattern, which will quickly become apparent once the diary has been kept for a period of time. Armed with this information, it is then much easier to ensure that the person with incontinence is taken to the bathroom at or around this time.
Carrying extra weight is another cause, that has been linked to incontinence issues. The extra weight puts additional pressure on the bladder muscles, which may already be weaker due to the aging process. Trying to lose those excess pounds is not only the healthy option but may also assist with reducing the pressures on the bladder, thus helping with incontinence issues.
Always be prepared with spare pads and a change of clothing to minimise the disruption and embarrassment should an accident occur. One of the most significant issues with incontinence is that people can quickly lose their confidence, and this, in turn, can affect their social life. Loneliness and depression can then follow, which is why early and effective treatment is critical to patient care.
While it is true to say that incontinence is more prevalent in the elderly, it does not have to become a significant problem either to the person suffering from the issue, their carers or family members. A simple visit to the GP is the first step towards effective treatment, and to retain and improve their quality of life.