Urinary Incontinence in Older Adults & Seniors
By Vicki Wolpoff of NorthShore Care Supply – an Aging Life Care Association Corporate Partner
November is Bladder Health Month — a month is designed to encourage you to stay informed about different bladder issues, so you can proactively take care of your bladder health or help someone who you are caring for.
One of the most common bladder conditions that affect millions of individuals each year is urinary incontinence. It is characterized by poor bladder control, which is when an individual cannot prevent urine from leaking out.
Aging is a factor that can cause urinary function to decline due to bladder and/or bowel changes as people get older. That’s why urinary incontinence is more prevalent in older adults.
Here’s what you need to know about urinary incontinence and aging as well as how you can help someone managing incontinence live life to the fullest without worrying about leaks.
What is the Connection Between Urinary Incontinence and Aging?
In older adults, incontinence may be caused by the following reasons:
- Reduced Mobility: If seniors are suffering from a specific condition, like arthritis, they may have difficulty reaching the bathroom in time. This urge incontinence increases their risk of falls and accidents. It is also considered a major contributing factor to hip fractures among older women.
- Impaired Cognition: Psychological disorders, like delirium, depression and dementia, can cause changes in the cognitive functioning of older adults. Once severely impaired, these conditions can limit their ability to go to the toilet and worsen their incontinence.
- Urinary Infection: Urinary tract infections (UTI) in seniors may be characterized by pain, burning and the frequent urge to urinate. It can also cause urinary incontinence.
- Side Effects of Medications: Certain medications can affect urinary incontinence, including diuretics, opioids, sedatives, antihistamines or decongestants, benzodiazepines and some antidepressants.Diuretics are known to increase the frequency of urination. Alcohol and caffeine can cause bladder irritation. Drowsiness is another side effect of medications, increasing one’s risk of falls.
What Can You Do to Help Manage Incontinence?
Managing incontinence among older adults is crucial to preventing the occurrence of bladder infections or ulcers. It can also be beneficial for their overall health and well-being, resulting in enhanced quality of life. Below are some tips to keep in mind.
- Do Pelvic Strengthening Exercises. Doing pelvic floor exercises every day can strengthen the muscles around the bladder. This helps stop urination and reduce incontinence.
- Make Lifestyle Changes. People experiencing issues with urinary incontinence should consider making the following lifestyle changes:
- Eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid drinking bladder irritants, such as alcohol or caffeinated beverages.
- Stop smoking tobacco products.
- Control the amount of fluids consumed.
- Schedule regular bathroom breaks during the day and night.
- Consider Incontinence Products. Even after getting treatments or making lifestyle changes, urine leakage may still occur occasionally. Consider using absorbent incontinence supplies to help manage this issue.Incontinence products are designed to support bladder (some also address bowel incontinence) leakage while offering comfort and protection. They come in the form of tab-style briefs/adult diapers, protective underwear/pull-up style, liners, pads, underpads and more. Absorbency levels can vary so pick the one with the most capacity needed to stay dry. At NorthShore Care Supply, we specialize in higher-absorbency products designed for individuals managing moderate and heavy to total incontinence.
- Seek Professional Help. Whether you’re an older adult or a concerned family caregiver, the decisions you need to make surrounding aging safely, comfortably and healthily can be overwhelming, according to Care.com. If you are caring for an older relative or disabled adult, consider seeking professional help from an Aging Life Care Professional®. Sometimes referred to as geriatric care managers, these professionals have the expertise to address elderly care-related concerns, answer questions and help improve the quality of life for both you and your loved ones.
To locate an Aging Life Care Professional near you, visit aginglifecare.org.
About the author: Vicki Wolpoff is the Director of Marketing and Communications for NorthShore Care Supply, the company behind NorthShore® high-absorbency incontinence products such as tab-style briefs, protective underwear, pads, liners, bed pads and more. She has over 20 years of healthcare experience and currently serves as chair of the Adult Incontinence Committee for the Center for Baby and Adult Hygiene Products(BAHP), helping develop communications regarding adult incontinence, providing information on treatment and management options as well as increasing the accessibility of absorbent incontinence products.
image credit: National Association for Continence