The importance of addressing incontinence immediately when it arises cannot be overstated. Around 20 million people in the United States alone suffer from incontinence, nearly 75% of which are women. Childbirth can very easily weaken the pelvic floor muscles enough to where urinary incontinence becomes a problem immediately after pregnancy. Given the personal and rather embarrassing nature of the symptom it is the most under reported symptom for women and the elderly.
Our elders are proud and don’t want to burden others with embarrassing problems but the fact is both urinary and fecal incontinence can be early symptoms of serious conditions. Bladder cancer, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, and a number of STDs can all cause one to experience troubles with incontinence in their early stages. Even if the symptoms are not related to something more dangerous, incontinence symptoms can cause unwanted troubles of their own if not treated properly.
An all too common approach people tend to take when they find they are susceptible to accidents is to eat and drink less. When you drink less liquid the urine becomes more concentrated and less filtered, causing it to flow more yellow/gold. This less filtered urine actually irritates the bladder more and will cause one to still have to make frequent trips to the restroom even though they are not urinating much at a time. Frequent urgent visits to the restroom can be a contributor to falls. Dramatically cutting off your food intake is unhealthy for all too many reasons and should never be considered an option.
Instead of cutting back on how much is eaten/drank, help them be smarter about what they put in their body. Talk to the elder about their diet. Encourage them to start only eating 3 times a day and only drinking natural fruit juices or water. These liquids are tremendously less irritable to the bladder and will help them get a better handle on urinary incontinence while still staying hydrated.
Fecal incontinence is usually a side effect of another disease/disorder. In a lot of these cases a good way to handle it is to eat 3 solid meals a day with plenty of fiber. Urge the elder to eat at least 10 grams of fiber at each meal through a combination of whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. This should prompt bowel movement within a reasonable amount of time after the meal and enable them to set up a bathroom schedule that will make incontinence troubles less inconvenient.
Regardless of how well an elder says they have incontinence under control it is always best to be cautious. Make sure they consult a doctor and rule out any worse conditions developing. Wearing incontinence briefs, having a bed pan handy, and having a healthy diet will help them manage the symptoms better and not have to live with the anxiety and fear that another incident could happen at any time.
Guest contributor, Martha June Whitman is a geriatric health writer who enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience form her years as a caregiver. She writes for National Incontinence, a supplier of depends diapers and tena briefs.