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Senior Citizens and Incontinence

Posted Feb 02 2011 4:08am
Urinary incontinence is a bladder control problem that affects people of all ages, not just the elderly. One of the great misconceptions about incontinence is that it is a natural and expected part of aging. But that’s not true; just because you’re elderly doesn’t mean you have to accept the loss of bladder control as a normal part of getting older. Effective treatments are available for sufferers of incontinence, no matter what age you are.

Incontinence symptoms vary from occasional minor leakage to the complete accidental loss of control of an evacuation of the bladder. The majority of urinary incontinence issues arise from either weakened or over-active bladder muscles. Stress incontinence results from weak muscles meeting a sudden burst of pressure. A sudden sneeze, a violent cough or even a belly laugh can trigger an unwanted and sudden release of urine.

Another common type of incontinence is “overactive bladder,” or OAB. In OAB the nerves of the bladder send false signals making you feel an urgent need to urinate eve when there is very little liquid present.

Aging and Bladder Problems

Older adults have other reasons for bladder discharge problems. The very elderly are often immobile and not able t heed the call of nature in time. Others suffer from conditions that produce fluid overload.

Congestive heart problems or the use of diuretics can produce too much urine for a weakened bladder to hold. Incontinence can also be caused by cognitive impairment. Senior citizens often suffer from forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease which can cause behavioral problems. These situations are less about bladder control and more about more severe medical conditions.

The important thing to realize about bladder problems is that they have many causes and many possible treatments. Too many older adults see bladder control issues as a sign of incompetence and impending death. They try to hide the problem rather than seeking treatment.

Rather than risking a potentially embarrassing discharge in public they withdraw from life. This reclusive life leads to further isolation, feelings of despair and can even develop into depression. Senior safety and well being requires an active social life, so don’t let incontinence stop you from living. Treatments to reduce or even eliminate incontinence are many and varied .

Some treatments may include dietary changes or even altering prescription medications. Most severe cases may require therapy (like bladder control exercises, floor exercises, meal and beverage timing) medications and absorbency products. There are a number of surgical procedures that may be effective but because the risks and costs associated with any surgery, these are usually the last resort.

Prostate problems and nerve damage (from accidents or even the side effects of surgery) can also create incontinence. Realize that millions suffer from incontinence and it is nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t have to self-manage the problem in secrecy. Your doctor may be able to help free you of the problem, but not if you keep it to yourself.

Elder Care Issues

If you are a caregiver to a person who suffers from bladder control problems, talk to your family physician and get your loved one a complete evaluation. Adult diapers are not the only way to manage the problem and they certainly won’t cure it. The solution to your particular problem will take a good deal of investigation and experimentation. Some elder care givers have had great success by changing the physical environment; just adding a commode to the bedroom or giving the patient easy to remove clothing can fix the problem.

Others required a change in medication; still others required a change in home health care worker. Sometimes patients are embarrassed by health care workers of the opposite sex, other times it’s the reverse. Investigate experiment and persevere knowing that a good number of incontinence problems are manageable if not completely preventable.

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