Millions of Americans aged 65+ suffer from urinary incontinence, an embarrassing condition that can also cause serious health problems. As a leaking of urine that can’t be controlled, urinary incontinence affects between a quarter and a third of all seniors. Fortunately, incontinence isn’t always a normal part of the aging process. As an informal caregiver, helping an aging loved one who has urinary incontinence stay active will help ensure that they enjoy a higher quality of life.
Types of Urinary Incontinence
The many different types of urinary incontinence include:
- Stress incontinence. As the unintentional passing of urine through the urethra due to weakened pelvic floor muscles, stress incontinence typically occurs when a person sneezes or laughs.
- Overactive bladder (OAB). Also called surge incontinence, OAB occurs when the urge to urinate comes on suddenly, resulting in leakage.
- Total incontinence. When their bladder cannot store any urine, it can make the person have a constant urge to pass urine.
- Overflow incontinence. This occurs when other conditions cause an individual to be unable to completely empty their bladder.
- Functional incontinence. Common in the elderly, functional incontinence is when the person has a normal urge to urinate but cannot get to the toilet in time due to physical or cognitive impairments.
Urinary Incontinence Often Lowers Self-Esteem
Seniors that experience urinary incontinence often feel embarrassed and many put off seeing a doctor longer than they should. Constant worrying about poor bladder control can lower self-esteem, causing the individual to be anxious and nervous when out in public.
Over time, many older adults with urinary incontinence experience social isolation. It can also be an early indicator of frailty and other health concerns that increase one’s risk for falling, while prolonged urine exposure to skin may cause various skin problems.
Once the specific cause of incontinence has been pinpointed by a doctor, they may recommend one or more of these treatments:
- Bladder training exercises
- Pelvic-floor exercises, more commonly called Kegel exercises
- Prescription medications
Short-Term Incontinence Management Tips
As a family caregiver, it’s important to find the right products for your senior so they can manage their incontinence daily. Your options may include:
- Absorbent pads
- Disposable underwear