Incontinence in Older Adults

WEEKLY COMMUNICATOR (300 x 100 px) (200 × 100 px) (1)

FACTS

  • Incontinence means a person cannot control the bladder and/or bowels.

CAUSES

  • Constipation
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Overactive bladder
  • Nerve damage from diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and other diseases
  • Enlarged prostate in men
  • Injury, or damage to nerves and muscles from prostate surgery
  • Balance or gait problems that cause difficulty getting to the bathroom fast enough
  • Pelvic organ prolapse, displacing the bladder and urethra
  • Loss of ability to sense the need to urinate
  • Forgetting to go the physical bathroom
  • Inability to find the toilet

STRATEGIES

Urinary incontinence 

  • Decrease or eliminate caffeine intake.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Drink a cup of fluid all at one time rather than sipping a beverage over a longer period of time.
  • Keep pathways and bathroom well-lit, clear, and clutter-free.
  • Mark the bathroom with a big sign that reads “Toilet” or “Bathroom.”
  • Provide regular bathroom breaks, every 2-3 hours.
  • Supply easy-to-remove underwear and clothing.
  • Use disposable underwear, especially away from home.
  • Utilize waterproof mattress pads and other protective covers for bed linens.
  • Gentle-but-thorough cleaning and drying of the private area is essential for keeping the skin healthy.
  • Application of a skin barrier ointment can further protect the private area from moisture and irritation.

Bowel incontinence

  • Eat 20-30 grams of fiber per day. This can make stool more bulky and easier to control.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol to help prevent diarrhea.
  • Drink several glasses of water each day to prevent constipation.
  • To minimize accidents, schedule bowel movements at the same times each day, especially after meals.
  • Gentle-but-thorough cleaning and drying of the private area is essential for keeping the skin healthy.
  • Application of a skin barrier ointment can further protect the private area from moisture and irritation.

Disposable underwear

  • Many factors are considered when choosing the right incontinence product. Some trial and error is usually required.
  • Separate daytime and nighttime products may be needed.
  • Features to consider:
    • Absorbency
    • Flexibility that supports activity level
    • Gender-specific or unisex
    • Sizing – Proper sizing is essential to prevent leakage
    • Style – Tab-style, pull-ons, slimmer profile for daytime outings
    • Cost – Inquire about free samples and manufacturers coupons while considering which product works best
    • Products that trap and wick moisture away from the skin and feature a soft breathable lining
  • In some states, Medicaid covers the cost of adult disposable briefs. Some private insurance providers may cover the cost. Medicare does not cover the cost.
  • If a medical diagnosis supports the use of disposable underwear, the cost may be deducted as a medical expense on an annual tax return.

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