Millions of senior Americans are living with urinary incontinence, a troublesome problem that, if not managed, can lead to infection, isolation, falls, inactivity, and an overall decline in health. Yet, quite often, urinary incontinence can be treated and then managed with the help of private duty home care services.
Understanding the types of incontinence
Aging of the bladder muscle leads to a decrease in the bladder's capacity to store urine and an increase in overactive bladder symptoms. There are four major types of incontinence:
- Stress incontinence means that urine leaks from the bladder when a person laughs, coughs, exercises or lifts something heavy. It is caused by physical changes in the muscles of the pelvic floor. This type is most common in women.
- Urgency incontinence, sometimes called "overactive bladder," happens when the bladder begins to empty itself suddenly, perhaps when the person thinks about going to the bathroom or hears running water. It can be caused by damage to the nerves or by irritation from infection or certain foods.
- Overflow incontinence happens when small amounts of urine leak from a bladder that doesn’t empty completely. It results from nerve damage, scar tissue, an obstruction caused by a condition such as constipation or, in men, an enlarged prostate.
- Functional incontinence means that a person’s physical or mental disabilities keep them from being able to get to the toilet in time. This could be due to mobility problems, such as the effects of stroke, arthritis or osteoporosis. People with Alzheimer’s disease or related conditions may be confused when looking for the bathroom and negotiating clothing.
Many times, incontinence results from a combination of the above types.
Managing incontinence at home
Treatment for incontinence depends on the type and cause. In some cases, the doctor will recommend surgery. But often, lifestyle changes, pelvic exercises, medications or nonsurgical medical treatments are effective. The home environment can be improved with modifications such as a raised toilet seat, grab bars or a bedside commode. Adaptive clothing with elastic and Velcro help seniors who have difficulty with zippers and buttons.
Many families today take advantage of private duty home care services to keep their senior loved ones safe and well cared for at home. When a senior is dealing with the challenges of incontinence, in-home care can be a tremendous support resource, helping preserve dignity and self-esteem.
- Support for medical treatments. In-home caregivers can transport clients to health appointments; help them follow their doctor’s advice at home; and provide medication reminders.
- Supervision of home behavioral therapies. In-home caregivers provide support with exercises, dietary changes, and “bladder training.”
- Bathroom assistance. When physical or cognitive functional challenges make it hard for a senior client to get to the bathroom, trained in-home caregivers can help them to the toilet or assist with a bedside commode or bedpan.
- Help with incontinence products and hygiene. In-home caregivers can shop for these products, ensure proper hygiene, assist with bedding and skin care, and appropriately dispose of incontinence care products.