Managing Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is one of the most unfortunate of health concerns and indignities that affects the aging human body. But, since it’s one of the most common — affecting about a fifth of people over age 85 — a variety of coping approaches and products are readily available to help loved ones and their caregivers.

It’s important for caregivers to understand that the incontinence is more than just inconvenient. Associated health problems can occur and potentially turn serious, such as skin rashes and urinary tract infections. And incontinence is even known to increase the chances of falls and injuries. Further, the need for long-term care often arises; one study found that urinary incontinence is second only to dementia among reasons for admission to long-term care.

Here are several ways to help those suffering urinary incontinence:

  • Establish a restroom routine and be diligent and patient. Try to get the person to go to the bathroom every two hours during waking hours. This can lead to a degree of bladder “retraining.”
  • Consult a health care professional with experience training the patient in pelvic-floor strengthening exercises (such as Kegel exercises).
  • Consult a doctor, who may determine if prescribing a medication called an antimuscarinic is appropriate. These can help with the different types of urinary incontinence: overactive bladder and urge incontinence.
  • Ensure the person avoids stimulants in the evening, such as caffeine, as well as liquids before bedtime.
  • Simplify the person’s wardrobe — pants with elastic waistbands offer great convenience.
  • Keep a close eye on nonverbal signals that the patient needs to use the restroom. These include facial expressions, distraction, and pulling at clothes.
  • Realize the person may have been hiding their incontinence and suffering longer than you’re aware of. This can result in a longer time period required for managing the incontinence, and if the patient has become more socially isolated and less likely to leave home, the incontinence may have been the primary reason.
  • Know that surgery may be an option for patients who do not respond to conservative methods as described above.