Millions of elderly Americans deal with the embarrassment and uncertainty caused by urinary incontinence. More common in older women, incontinence can interfere with an at-home senior’s ability to enjoy an active lifestyle.
When you’re serving as a caregiver for an older loved one who’s still aging independently in place, poor bladder control can frustrate you both. Many seniors simply accept incontinence as a normal part of aging, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some proven ways to proactively care for a senior with incontinence.
What Causes Incontinence?
Incontinence is an involuntary expression of urine that falls under one of three types:
This commonly occurs in women due to childbirth or menopause, while in men it’s usually from an enlarged prostate gland. Stress incontinence occurs when increased abdominal pressure overwhelms bladder muscles that have been weakened by age. Simple activities like laughing, lifting heavy objects, or getting up out of a chair can cause involuntary urine leakage.
This is the most common form, and involves unexpected urination after feeling a sudden, urgent need to urinate. Urge incontinence can result from dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, nerve damage, and strokes. Other contributing factors are constipation, pelvic floor muscle atrophy in females, and prostate enlargement in males.
This type oftentimes strikes more immobile or mentally impaired seniors, when they feel the urge to urinate but can’t get to the bathroom in time. Conditions like arthritis, hip injuries, multiple sclerosis (MS), and neurological disorders can cause functional incontinence.
When a senior that you’re caring for is having repeated incontinence episodes, it’s best to consult with their doctor to determine which type it is.
In addition to social isolation from incontinence, when a senior sits or lays in wet undergarments it can lead to embarrassing odors, dermatitis, and other skin integrity issues. If the incontinence isn’t managed properly, their skin could get so bad that they will need to be hospitalized or placed in a nursing home temporarily; both of which interfere with their ability to age in place. In addition, when caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s, they’re oftentimes non-cooperative, which can be even more stressful for their caregiver.
Incontinence Care Tips
The primary focus of an incontinence care program should be upon comfort and sanitation. Here are some reliable ways to manage it:
- Skin and urine are not a good combination. If your senior is active, encourage them to wash the area with a mild soap and water after an accident, and then apply a good skin cream. Creams with Aloe Vera work well, and some also act as a moisture barrier. When caring for a bedridden individual, when an episode occurs make sure that that you promptly wash the area thoroughly and then apply skin cream. Consult a pharmacist with questions about soaps and creams.
- Make sure that any wet clothing items, including undergarments, are promptly changed out for clean, dry ones. This is especially important for someone who’s less mobile or bedridden.
- Check your loved one’s bathroom to ensure that the toilet is easy to use, and make improvements when needed.
- If the senior is mobile, try to encourage them to get up and use the bathroom once even the slightest signal to urinate occurs. For those with dementia or Alzheimer’s, this can be quite difficult, and an adult brief or hygiene pad may work best. Look for incontinence products that effectively wick moisture away from their skin.
- Teach your loved one about certain foods and beverages that can aggravate incontinence like fruit juices, alcohol, caffeine products, and highly acidic and spicy foods. Ask them to pay attention to foods and beverages that trigger incontinence, and to limit or avoid those products altogether.
- For women with stress incontinence, Kegel exercises can be used to strengthen pelvic muscles which helps reduce unexpected urine leakage.
When you’re providing care for a senior loved one who is still active outside their home, talk to them about the newer adult undergarments that can give them security and confidence. Explain that today’s adult pullups resemble regular underwear without announcing to the whole world that they’re being worn.
Incontinence Care Experts Ready to Step In
Caring for an aging adult with incontinence can be frustrating, especially when you live far away. When you need a break, call First In Care, and one of our experienced aides can step in and provide your loved one with the incontinence care they deserve. Our caregivers are highly trained on incontinence issues, and further understand the unique toileting needs of seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
While in your senior’s home, our aides can also assist with light housework, personal hygiene, meal preparation, transportation and companionship, all delivered in a flexible and affordable package to put your mind at-ease. To learn more now about incontinence care, or the other family-trusted senior home healthcare services First In Care delivers in Bradenton and Manatee County, FL, visit: www.firstincare.com!