Incontinence in Elderly

Elderly people suffering with incontinence can often be too embarrassed to come forward and seek help for it

They do not find it an easy subject to discuss with relatives or medical staff. However, it is really important that if your relative does have problems getting to the toilet on time that they should ask for help

There is something that can be done and you can get help. It is not something you necessarily have to cope with alone or that cannot be resolved

How your doctor can help the elderly with incontinence

When seeing healthcare staff about bladder or bowel problem, your relative should be seen and examined by a nurse or doctor, who is trained to do an assessment and then they might be referred to see a specialist, who is able to answer questions relating to incontinence problems and can provide a diagnosis and discuss all available treatments

Staff should always treat their patient with sensitivity. This can be a distressing time and your relative should be made to feel as comfortable as possible at all times

Make sure that different treatment options are explained and what the NHS can do, as well as what your relative can do to help themselves. There are also patient groups they can join.

When visiting healthcare staff about bladder or bowel problems, the staff should ask about what the symptoms are and about other medical conditions which may be contributing to the bowel, or bladder problem

Medication can also be a cause. Your relative will possibly have tests for infection and be asked to record the frequency of toilet visits. There may also be an internal examination to check for prolapse in women and prostrate issues in men

What can you do to help the elderly with incontinence?

  • Let your relative know that these problems are common and nothing to be ashamed of
  • It may be helpful to reduce caffeine intake
  • It may be helpful to drink more fluids to aid constipation
  • There are incontinence pads on sale in all leading supermarkets and chemists, as well as on numerous websites. Many of these products come as pull up pants, so they can be worn as underwear
  • Barrier cream, such as Sudocrem, is helpful to protect and soothe the skin
  • Take your relative to the bathroom regularly to avoid accidents
  • Plan ahead for trips and visits outside the home and take products with you. You can keep a bag packed with pads, cream, wipes etc.
  • Stop smoking, as this can make the bladder over-active
  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises are often very effective in treating urinary incontinence. These exercises, also known as Kegel’s exercises, are aimed at strengthening the bladder’s sphincter and therefore allowing it to seal off the bladder better. Sphincter muscles are part of a group called the pelvic floor muscles. Strengthening the pelvic floor reflects positively on the strength of the sphincter and greatly improves stress incontinence
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