Incontinence, though it affects at least 13 million Americans, is not normal. And about 85% of those affected are women.
Now, before your mother is stuck wearing adult diapers for the rest of her life she really needs to see a urologist to determine what is the underlying reason behind the incontinence.
Anything from stress, medication, illness or a urinary tract infection could be behind the symptoms that sufferers are experiencing.
This also could just be the symptom of a larger, underlying problem, so that is why a trip to the doctor is very important.
In addition, there could be weakness with the muscles supporting the urinary tract, but this can be dealt with through Kegel exercises (more on that below).
Types of Incontinence
There are three major types of incontinence…
The muscles of the pelvic floor, which have been dutifully supporting the bladder are now weakened. In women, this is due to the wear and tear of childbirth and the hormonal changes that come from menopause. The bladder slips down without the muscle support and now the abdominal muscles can squeeze the bladder.
The net result is that whenever Mom coughs, sneezes, laughs or lifts something the abdominal muscles put enough stress on the bladder to cause some urine to leak out.
Urine builds up in the bladder to the point where the muscles that control the flow of urine cannot hold it. Urine leaks out throughout the day.
This is especially common in men with enlarged prostates. The prostate blocks the normal flow of urine causing it to hold up the bladder until it overflows.
This is when your parents experience a quick, sudden urge to go…and they simply cannot hold it. It is the suddenness between getting the urge and actually urinating that causes the problem.
There are times that urge incontinence is due to infection or the side effects of medication, in which case it can be treated.
However, if the reason for the urge incontinence is dementia or a different neurological disorder, this may indicate that the brain no longer is able to send the proper signals to the bladder, in which case there is no cure.
Now, just so you know the odds are that your parents will not be willing to fork over the information and talk to you about their incontinence. After all, would you be willing to talk about it?
So you might have to really force the issue on this to determine exactly where they stand. The only advice I could give is to let them know that their friends are probably going through the same thing and that there are treatments available, if they are willing to talk to a doctor abut this.
As stated above, it is best to see a doctor to get a medical determination as to what is the cause of the issue…because ultimately that will lead to the best treatment options. However, here are a few simple tips that you can use to limit the problems that your parents might encounter with incontinence…
- Get your parents on a schedule. And that means scheduling bathroom trips BEFORE experiencing the urge to go becomes too strong
- Make sure there are no obstructions to the bathroom. When they have to go there needs to be a clear path
- If going to the bathroom involves going up a flight of stairs, consider investing in a portable or bedside commode (insert link)
- No liquids 3 hours before going to bed
- Eliminate alcohol as well as caffeinated beverages. These irritate the bladder
- Avoid sugar, chocolates, spicy foods and grapefruit as these are not considered “bowel-friendly”
- Consult with their doctor about medications they may be on that could cause the incontinence. This ESPECIALLY applies to diuretics
- If your parents go out, the first thing they do when they get to their event should be to check where the restrooms are BEFORE they need them
- Your mother can also practice Kegel exercises. When first doing them, it is best to start practicing while on the toilet. The point behind Kegel exercises is to strengthen the muscles that control the flow of urine from the bladder out of the body. You can kind these muscles by stopping the stream of urine while you are on the bowl.
Once you have located the muscles, you should then practice at least 3 times a day, holding these muscles tight for 5 second intervals 15-25 times per set. Done in the morning, afternoon and night, this will definitely help with most forms of incontinence.