Incontinence in the Elderly
Incontinence is the involuntary excretion of urine or feces. While incontinence can happen to anyone, it’s far more common in older adults. The Mayo Clinic Health System reports that up to 75% of women over age 65 report urine leakage. Additionally, 60-70% of people with Alzheimer's eventually become incontinent. Although a multitude of older adults deal with incontinence issues, it is not a normal part of the aging process.
What Causes Incontinence?
Problems in the urinary system can be caused by aging, illness, or injury. The muscles in and around the bladder and urethra tend to become weaker with age. Weak muscles of the sphincters and pelvis can lead to urinary incontinence because the sphincter muscles cannot remain tight enough to hold urine in the bladder, or the bladder does not have enough support from the pelvic muscles to stay in its proper position. Weak bladder muscles may also result in not being able to empty the bladder completely.
Additionally, incontinence may be caused by medication interactions, vaginal or urinary tract infections, prostate problems and progressive diseases that lead to cognitive and physical decline. Functional incontinence is a type that occurs because of difficulties with toileting due to confusion or physical limitations in getting to the bathroom in time.
Caring for Someone with Incontinence
Unfortunately, many individuals who suffer with leakage or incontinence issues are resistant to seeking treatment due to shame or embarrassment. However, attempts to hide the problem from caregivers and medical providers may present a missed opportunity in treating or managing incontinence issues. Acute incontinence, caused by issues like urinary tract infections, diabetes, and medication interactions, is often treatable and even reversible by addressing underlying conditions and bladder control training.
Unfortunately, later stages of progressive conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, often lead to chronic incontinence which comes with its own physical and social consequences. Individuals experiencing chronic incontinence have higher rates of pressure ulcers, skin infections, and urinary tract infections as well as increased levels of embarrassment and depression. Fortunately, resources are available to cope with the impact of incontinence on quality of life for both older adults and their caregivers.
Browse AgingCare's collection of incontinence articles and Caregiver Q&A for expert advice and tips from a community of caregivers who truly understand the challenges of caring for a loved one with incontinence.
Incontinence and Bladder Control in the Elderly
Incontinence, the loss of bladder control, is extremely common among elderly people. Explore issues that cause incontinence and how it can be treated and controlled.22 Comments
The 4 Kinds of Urinary Incontinence
Caring for an elderly parent with incontinence can be challenging. Start by understanding the four main kinds of incontinence: stress incontinence, urge incontinence, overflow and functional incontinence.5 Comments
How to Convince a Senior to Wear Adult Diapers
Can’t get Mom to wear adult diapers? Addressing incontinence issues requires patience, understanding and a commitment to upholding a senior’s dignity. A caregiving expert shares her best tips for handling this delicate topic.41 Comments
Elderly Incontinence Treatment Options
Under a doctor's care, incontinence can be treated and often cured. Today there are more treatments for urinary incontinence than ever before.7 Comments
How to Choose the Best Adult Diapers
There are countless incontinence care products on the market for seniors who are living with urine leakage and/or bowel leakage. Use these tips to find a product that fits well, contains leaks, promotes skin integrity and improves quality of life.27 Comments
Dementia and Incontinence: 10 Tips for Caregivers
Occasional incontinence events or “accidents” commonly progress into chronic incontinence issues during the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.0 Comments
Caring for a Loved One With Fecal Incontinence
Millions of adults have bowel control problems, but most are reluctant to talk about this condition and seek help. Get the information you need to start the discussion, explore treatment options and help your loved one improve their quality of life.10 Comments
Mother covered in diarrhea AGAIN when I visited the home on Friday. Is it common for nursing homes to drag their feet when someone needs help?9 Answers
Is slipping personal hygiene a sign of worsening dementia or depression?3 Answers
Double incontinence at memory care: what have your experiences been?14 Answers
82-year-old dad doesn’t like to wear clothes anymore. Every time I come over, I worry that he is going to answer the door naked. Any advice?30 Answers
Well, Dad has finally reached the time when he isn't able to care for himself at home alone any longer.6 Comments
Relief from peeing problem. I hope this helps someone.4 Comments
How to change a pull up without removing pants and shoes.5 Comments
I’m tired, exhausted, and just too young to endure this… I need to vent.17 Comments