Incontinence is often a problem with seniors, especially if they are suffering from dementia. If you are caring for a senior, at home or in a nursing home, read on for a guide to incontinence and how best to deal with it.
What Causes Incontinence in Older People?
The most common cause of urinary incontinence is a weakness of the pelvic floor. This is something that affects women after childbirth, but it is also something to look forward to as we age. Muscle atrophy is also part of getting older, and the bladder muscles are no different. When these muscles are weak, they don’t prevent urine leaks. Urinary incontinence can also be caused by an enlarged prostate (in men), nerve damage from diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, and organ prolapse.
Bowel incontinence can be caused by a poor diet, which leads to longstanding constipation and periods of involuntary diarrhoea. IBS and Crohn’s disease are also a factor.
In all cases, the patient should be assessed by a medical practitioner to rule out any more serious problems, such as a bladder infection.
The Effects of Incontinence
Incontinence can be extremely embarrassing for the patient. It can also be very uncomfortable for them if they end up sitting in soiled clothing for extended periods. Many older people suffer in silence rather than admit they have a problem or try and drink less fluids to avoid having “accidents”, which only exacerbates the issue.
Incontinence can be managed at home with the right products and a sympathetic carer. You can purchase waterproof and washable mattress covers for beds and chairs, as well as absorbent pads for clothing and furniture. Search for nursing home supplies and click on the incontinence section for a list of the products available.
It’s also important to protect the patient’s skin using barrier creams and soothing lotions. Urine is acidic and if the patient’s hygiene isn’t maintained, they will end up suffering painful sores and lesions. If the urinary incontinence is severe, the patient may benefit from being catheterised, but this is something to discuss with a doctor or nurse.
Incontinent patients need to be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids. Seniors need at least 1.5 litres of fluids a day to remain adequately hydrated. This can be diluted juice, tea, water – whatever drinks they enjoy. Monitor fluid intake over a few days to ensure the patient is drinking enough.A good diet with sufficient fibre is also important, as this will reduce the risk of constipation.
It can be very frustrating trying to care for an incontinent patient. No sooner have you bathed them and changed their bed, when you need to start all over again. Not surprisingly, this can lead to a lot of frustration and resentment.
If you are struggling to cope, seek help from your GP or nurse practitioner. It may be appropriate for your loved one to move into a care home, where they can receive a greater level of one-to-one care.