We don’t like to talk about it but will admit there are times we need to urinate and it becomes an ordeal. When it affects you, the urgency and frequency makes it seem like you’re in a race against nature to reach the bathroom.
Younger adults typically have no issue holding their bladder until it’s convenient to find a restroom. However, for 33 million seniors a trip to the restroom is anything but normal. The times of holding it are over and the rush is on. Sometimes it can even stop healthy adults from socializing for fear of embarrassment.
When learning to cope with incontinence it’s important to realize that it is the lack of voluntary control over the muscles that control urination. One in five adults suffer with this malady either regularly or occasionally.
There are many possible reasons for incontinence. Various forms of arthritis or different medications can affect anyone but a weak or overactive bladder tends to be the culprit. In men, it may be due to an enlarged prostate. Other things that may affect you, as a senior, is damage to the nerves that control urination from diseases such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.
With incontinence, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis from your physician as there are various types of incontinence. These include:
- Stress Incontinence: occurs when the bladder is under pressure due to exercise, coughing, laughing or lifting
- Overflow Incontinence: is characterized by the involuntary release of urine from an overfull urinary bladder, often in the absence of any urge to urinate; overflow incontinence may also be a side effect of certain medications; this type of incontinence is typical in men with an enlarged prostate blocking the urethra or diabetes or spinal cord injury
- Functional Incontinence: occurs when there’s normal bladder control but you simply cannot get to the restroom in time because you can’t move as fast as you once could due to joint disease, balance disorder or other common ailments
The good news, today you can find more treatments than ever before for urinary incontinence. So, after discovering which type of incontinence you suffer from, you and your physician can determine which treatment will be most advantageous to your lifestyle. You can learn things like pelvic floor muscle exercises, biofeedback, and timed voiding.
One of the things you can do on your own – and it may seem obvious – to help with urinary incontinence is reducing the amount of liquid you drink. This is especially helpful to do a few hours before going to bed. Also you can cut down on foods or drinks that make symptoms worse; for example, alcohol and caffeine can irritate the bladder. If you are a diabetic, keeping your blood sugar as close to normal as possible will help with overactive bladder symptoms and planning ahead with medications such as diuretics will help as well. For example, if you are on a diuretic it is a good idea to take this in the morning instead of before going to bed.
Bladder retraining can be a helpful method for helping to control urinary incontinence. When someone practices bladder retraining they schedule certain times to void. For example, one might say they will try to void every hour, even if they are not able to. Also, with bladder retraining one will try to avoid going to the bathroom when it is not on the scheduled hour, this will help strengthen your bladder muscles. Once you can get used to going only every hours you can try increasing the amount of time you wait before voiding. Eventually, the goal would be to wait three to four hours in between voiding time.
Of course, healthy lifestyle changes incorporating weight management, proper exercise, a healthy diet and the right amount of sleep is always recommended.
- Patient education: Urinary incontinence (The Basics). (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/urinary-incontinence-the-basics