Understanding and Dealing with Urinary Incontinence in Elderly

Urinary incontinence. A large section of the populace in India and around the world – especially senior citizens – suffer from this so-called demon. It is difficult to put a number to this ‘large section’ because most of the victims do not tell anybody about it. If a leaking bladder is keeping you worried through the day or night, we are here to tell you that you are not alone. And also, contrary to the common perception, urinary incontinence is NOT a disease. Read on to understand the concept of this condition, its various aspects, and why talking about it should be as natural as telling someone you have a sensitive throat.

Urinary Incontinence elderly

Understanding urinary incontinence and its types The dictionary defines incontinence as the lack of voluntary control over urination or defecation. While urinary incontinence is common amongst children, pregnant women and men with poor health, too, we are only focusing on senior citizens for now. Here are some of the primary types of urinary incontinence:

  1. Urge incontinence: This type of condition basically means that you have a bladder that is overactive to an extent that you sometimes fail to make it to the bathroom in time. The urge (or a strong feeling) to pass urine is indicated by your brain even when your bladder is not full. Urge incontinence or the overactive bladder syndrome is common amongst the elderly.
  1. Stress incontinence: An uncontainable urine leakage caused due to (or during) coughing, laughing, exercising, sneezing and other such physically strenuous activities are referred to as stress incontinence. It occurs as a result of external pressure and poor closure of the bladder.
  1. Overflow incontinence: Overflow incontinence (or continuous incontinence) is usually a case of poor bladder contraction or urethra blockage, both of which cause pressure to build up. As the name suggests, when your bladder is filled beyond its capacity, it tends to overflow (literally). Another condition, called ‘nocturnia’, is associated with this form of incontinence.
  1. Functional incontinence: A very common type of incontinence, this has more to do with a person’s inability to get to the bathroom when they have an urge to relieve themselves. While the bladder and pelvic health might be in great condition, several other causes may lead to functional incontinence (such as poor eyesight, mobility impairment, mental illness, medication, neurological conditions or other health issues).

You cannot really call one worse than the other since each one presents its own unique set of challenges for the sufferer. Many believe that obesity, family history, lack of exercise, excessive smoking and over intake of caffeine or alcohol could cause or worsen incontinence conditions.

Why hide it and suffer alone when you can get help?

For ages, ‘private’ things like urinating have been a subject of taboo in countries like India. Why, though? As we stated above, urinary incontinence is not a condition to be embarrassed about. It is, on the other hand, closely linked to ageing, i.e. it is a sign that you are growing old. And ageing comes with its own set of unique challenges, since your body shows signs of wear and tear. When you are perfectly okay with your eyesight, hearing ability and biomechanical functionalities deteriorating due to old age, why shy away from admitting that you suffer from urinary incontinence? If left untreated, incontinence can lead to serious urinary infections, rashes or pressure sores. So, why risk it when you can manage it?

You have every right to age with dignity

What’s dignity got to do with incontinence, right? Well, as we mentioned above, a lot of you out there might be taking your incontinence too casually or too seriously – in both cases, you are putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. When it comes to health issues, taking preventive measures and getting the right treatment is of paramount importance. You have crossed the sixty mark and wish to lead a healthy, happy life with your head held high – and it is absolutely fair to expect that. But remember, taking everything in your stride with a smile on your face is a massive part of growing old with dignity. Won’t you agree? Let’s take incontinence head on and live the post-retirement life with our heads held high!

What are the treatment options available? First things first – talk to a family member or close friend about it. Ask around for or look up the best doctors around you and schedule a visit as soon as you can. Once you have been diagnosed with a specific type of urinary incontinence, it is important to take appropriate action (as advised by your doctor, urologist or gynaecologist). While incontinence treatments range from surgeries and electrical stimulation to muscle or bladder control training and behavioural therapy, there is also a range of devices that can help deal with the condition on a day-to-day basis. We will talk about incontinence management methods, devices, and products in our next article, along with some handy tips to deal with urinary incontinence. Got questions? Type away in the comments section below and we will try our best to answer them.