Urinary incontinence is common in adults over the age of 65 and medical costs for diagnosing the actual cause and treatment have surged in the past two decades. While the most common stereotype regarding aging needs immediate alteration as bladder-related issues are due to underlying causes that are not diagnosed properly.
Incontinence is a medical condition in which an individual loses control over their bladder. The results may vary ranging from a minor loss of urine after coughing or sneezing to complete loss of urination control.
It becomes quite challenging for caregivers to handle elderly individuals with urinary incontinence, especially when they are already dealing with their Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Despite technological advancements and research into the treatment of incontinence, this ailment is rising in elderly individuals.
On the other hand, some misconceptions regarding bladder health are currently being researched and the good news is, the ailment can be treated up to a great extent in most of the cases. This problem requires adequate attention and the first step towards prevention & even cure is to understand the myths that are revolving around incontinence.
Let’s have a closer look at these myths that hinder the treatment and make care delivery a daunting task:
Myth 1: There’s no Effective Treatment available for Incontinence Till Date
There is evidence that this medical condition is treatable. Various researches verified that there are numerous ways through which significant improvements can be witnessed in the elderly with incontinence.
There are two types of incontinence that include- acute and chronic. Most of the caregivers or nursing staff may get confusion regarding both. There are chances that the cause of incontinence may be due to underlying cause like a urinary tract infection, which can be quickly reversed with the right medication.
Furthermore, the chronic incontinence can be managed with some incontinence tips and through nursing practices that have eventually shown incredible results. Since there’s no harm in invoking the potential of a few modifications that lead to fruitful results. Here’s something that can actually help:
Practicing Scheduled Voiding: This is perhaps the common way to treat incontinence by allowing the adults to follow a voiding pattern. It instructs the elderly to follow a schedule on a regular basis. For instance, a pattern like- going bathroom before meals, after meals, or before bed. The voiding instances are scheduled in a way that it keeps appropriate time between two intervals.
Training the Bladder: This therapy is quite helpful for the patients that are able to visit washrooms. The adults need to strictly overcome their urge to urinate until a specified time. Postponing the urination may seem difficult for a few days but it is quite effective in the long run to treat incontinence regardless of the age.
Myth 2: Incontinence is a Medical Concern and Caregivers Can’t Help in this
As we’ve discussed earlier, some practices can be effective in improving the symptoms, some non-pharmacologic treatments also show great results. A caregiver better understands the continence problem, the adult’s response, and behavior, which is enough to perform an assessment to better understand the issue.
Here’s what aspects could be considered by a caregiver for planning the right strategy for treating incontinence:
- The mental condition of the individual
- Lifestyle modifications and history
- Sleeping conditions
- Triggers to incontinence
These are some aspects that can be examined to determine the areas that need enough work to ensure the normal functioning of the bladder. Also, the physician recommending any medication would certainly need such information that helps them in determining the actual cause of the problem.
Myth 3: Incontinence is Unavoidable in the Elderly
One of the biggest myths that everyone believes is regarding the inevitability of incontinence with age. It is just that adults are at a higher risk of this medical issue, which can be prevented through several measures.
Aging affects every organ of the body and bladder isn’t untouched. There are chances that bladder isn’t empty completely that may trigger an urge to urinate frequently or similar conditions may arise. As per medical professionals, the urge to urinate more may contribute to incontinence as the bladder isn’t completely empty in one go.
Apart from this, other factors like urinal infection, constipation, neurological disorders, and more can also lead to problems related to the bladder. Studies have shown that behavioral changes and right bladder training could reverse the symptoms in most cases with or without the need for medication.
Here are some ways that can help in avoiding incontinence in adults:
- drinking plenty of fluids
- a high-fiber diet
- adequate physical activity
- healthier lifestyle choices
- avoiding stress
Myth 4: You Just Cannot Manage Incontinence in People with Alzheimer’s
Around 65-70% of adults with Alzheimer’s have incontinence but it doesn’t mean that everyone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia would surely have this issue. Managing incontinence in Alzheimer’s patients is undoubtedly a daunting task and requires enough patience for the nursing staff or the caregiver.
But the problem isn’t directly associated with Alzheimer’s rather it is due to the underlying reasons that include: communication issues, not recognizing washroom, loss of mobility, and unable to reach the bathroom on time.
Again, the techniques discussed earlier like- scheduled voiding, can help reduce and even eliminate incontinence in the elderly with Alzheimer’s. Here’s how caregivers/ nursing staff could get enough help:
- Ensure to remove any obstacles from paths to the toilet
- Avoid locking the toilet door
- Avoid caffeine or carbonated drinks
- Limit spicy and acidic foods
- Include regular exercise
Also, many caregivers admitted that incontinence was almost cured with a little modification in the routine along with regular medication for the ones with Dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Myth 5: You Cannot Escape Incontinence
Researches have revealed that most of the elderly with incontinence recovered from the ailment with the right treatment and few lifestyle modifications. Clearly, it isn’t something that can’t be cured or avoided in the majority of the cases. There are several ways to deal with incontinence.
Assistance in walking, exercising, and voiding techniques could be a game-changer for the ones who are at a higher risk of incontinence. Adopting a healthier lifestyle along with timely medication for any underlying disease can significantly reduce the chances of incontinence.
The most crucial part of the treatment of incontinence is to educate the elderly about the aspects of incontinence. Teaching them the ways they can manage the issue with some modification in the overall lifestyle is perhaps the right decision.
About the Author:
Elena Jonathon serves as a director for customer success at Caresmartz- one of the leading home care management solution providers. She is also a member of the US Caregiver Association and currently residing in Rochester, New York, with her family and handling the company’s business relationships.