Incontinence is a relatively common condition that most frequently affects older women. This condition causes one to lose bladder or bowel control partially or completely. A partial lack of bladder control will result in small, uncomfortable leaks, and total lack of bladder or bowel control will mean total incontinence.
Most Common Forms of Incontinence
- Stress Incontinence – urine leaks occur at time when the bladder is under pressure (for example, when you cough or laugh)
- Urge Incontinence – a sudden, uncontrollable urge to void results in a urine leak
- Overflow Incontinence – (chronic urinary retention) when one is unable to fully empty the bladder, and this results in leakage occurring afterward
- Total Incontinence – when the bladder is not able to store urine
- Urinary Incontinence – referred to as poor bladder control, this is a common condition that is often associated with being pregnant, childbirth, menopause, or a range of chronic diseases, like asthma, diabetes, or arthritis. Urinary Incontinence can range from the occasional leak when you sneeze, laugh, or cough, to the inability to control your bladder, and it may cause you to wet yourself. Other symptoms that you could encounter with urinary incontinence is the urge to visit the toilet frequently. Numerous things may cause urinary incontinence, but it can be treated, managed, and, in some cases, cured.
- Fecal Incontinence – someone with fecal incontinence has trouble controlling his bowels, which means he may pass feces or stool at the wrong time or wrong place. Also, someone with fecal incontinence could pass wind at an inopportune time, or experience staining in his underwear. Difficulty controlling bowels is more common the older we get. People with poor bowel control usually also have poor bladder control. There can be many causes for fecal incontinence, and the most common include weak back passage muscles due to having babies, getting older, surgery, radiation therapy, constipation, or severe diarrhea.
Incontinence can happen in men or women of any age. However, older people are at more increased risk of having this chronic health problem.
Caring for a Loved One with Incontinence
Incontinence can be challenging to care for, especially when different management strategies are needed, depending on the type and cause of someone’s incontinence. Consideration should be given to a person’s living arrangement and the lifestyle of a person who needs care and caregiver.
Caring for a loved one with incontinence can be demanding and stressful. Numerous caregivers reported feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, and upset about dealing with someone’s incontinence.
There are effective treatments that are available to help improve, manage, or cure incontinence problems. Your loved one’s doctor is where you should start to get a referral for a continence assessment, management, and advice.
- Continence Assessment – a continence assessment can help you establish a plan to the needs of your loved one. Information collected during a continence assessment includes medical history, how often the person urinates and defecates, a rough estimate of amount of urine passed, description of feces, details of diet and fluid intake, list of medication, prescription, over-the-counter and herbal preparations, current health concerns, self-care abilities (i.e., feed themselves, dress and bathe on their own), and whether or not the individual recognizes the need to go to the toilet. There might be a urine test and/or an ultrasound of the bladder during the assessment.
- Management for Incontinence – Treatment and management of incontinence will depend on the type of incontinence a person has. Some options may include increased fluid intake during the day, high-fiber diet, pelvic floor exercises, bladder training, training in good toilet habits, medications (i.e. laxatives), and aids such as booster pads or extra absorbent diapers.
Tips for Incontinence Management
- Wear protective underwear or thin adult liners – there are many different products available for managing incontinence, such as protective underwear or liners. Incontinence liners add absorbency and extra protection, especially at night.
- Hydrating – if you have incontinence, you need to cut down on alcohol and drinks containing caffeine, like tea, coffee, and cola. Caffeine can cause your bladder to produce more urine, and it can irritate your bladder. Hydrate well with water throughout the day, but drink less during the hours before you go to bed.
- Protect Your Bed – having to wash and change sheets on your bed always can be annoying, it is essential to invest in water-proof bedding, mattress protects, or a washable underpad to make nighttime incontinence easier.
- Use the Bathroom – before you begin getting ready for bed, empty your bladder, go through your bedtime routine, and then empty your bladder again before going back to sleep.
When being a caregiver for a loved one becomes difficult to manage, it is time to consider hiring in-home nursing care, or choosing a nursing home to transition your loved one to. You can ensure your loved one is well taken care of by professional with in-home nursing care or by moving into nursing care.