Caring for a loved one who needs special care for bladder or bowel control difficulties can be an unpleasant task. The good news is: there are effective solutions for managing urinary incontinence that can improve the quality of life with dignity for your loved one, and cause less frustration for you, the caregiver.
The Basics about Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control, and is not a disease or a normal part of the aging process. It is a medical condition. Millions of individuals have some urinary incontinence problems and it is more prevalent for those over the age of 60.
Incontinence can range from a small "dribble" to soaked clothing.
The age and levels of incontinence vary from children with special needs, to persons affected by stroke, multiple sclerosis, prostate issues, dementia, spinal cord injury, or numerous other conditions.
Incontinence is not easy to discuss with a loved one. How do you discretely go about mentioning signs of urine odor, a wet chair, wet bed, or frequent wet clothing? Since incontinence is a medical issue, it is important to discuss it with your loved one in order to get prompt treatment.
An evaluation by a health care professional is the first step in finding the cause, type, and degree of incontinence.
There are various common types of incontinence that can happen separately or in combination.
• Stress Incontinence is a leakage of a small amount of urine such as when laughing, coughing, or lifting a heavy object. This is caused by sudden stress or pressure on the bladder. This is more common in women and is caused by weak pelvic muscles following childbirth, surgery, or menopause. Men sometimes experience this type of incontinence following prostate cancer surgery.
• Urge Incontinence is the sudden urge to urinate in which the person often does not reach the bathroom in time. This is also known as spastic or overactive bladder and causes a sudden, intense, and often frequent need to urinate. This type of incontinence is more prevalent in the elderly. It can be a result of diabetes, a urinary tract infection, a neurological disorder, or an early sign of bladder cancer.
• Overflow Incontinence is when the bladder fills beyond its capacity when the urge to void is not felt. When the bladder is too full, it begins to leak small amounts to relieve pressure. Diabetes, spinal cord injuries, or a tumor or enlarged prostate may block the flow of urine.
• Functional Incontinence results from limitations due to restricted mobility, medications, environmental barriers, surgery, or mental disorders. For those affected by arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease or other condition that affects mobility, it's just hard to get to the bathroom in time.
• Mixed Incontinence is a combination of problems; most often, it's a result of stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
Managing Urinary Incontinence
A successful course of treatment, cure, or management can be determined once the type or a combination of types of urinary incontinence is diagnosed by a health care professional.
There are numerous things that can help in the management of the urinary incontinence, depending on the needs of the individual and the recommendations of your health care provider. These may include dietary changes, behavioral therapy, specialized exercises, medications, supportive devices, surgery, and disposable absorbent products.
It is important to note that not all disposable products are equal in effectiveness for the management of urinary incontinence. Bladder control products that contain super absorbent polymers offer the highest level of protection and will quickly absorb urine and neutralize unpleasant odors.
If appropriate, high performance products are more cost effective (although not inexpensive) because not as many are used as other types of absorbent products. These highly absorbent products prevent leakage and greatly reduce odor. Using an appropriate incontinence garment will aid in uninterrupted sleep and improve the quality of life for the person with urinary incontinence. Needless to say, the use of protective incontinence products, as needed, will make caregiving more pleasant
Resources for further information:
National Association for Continence (NAFC) is dedicated to improving the quality of life of people with incontinence. www.nafc.org or 800-BLADDER.
The Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com. The Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of virtually every type of complex illness. Search for "Urinary Incontinence."