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Understanding Incontinence in Seniors

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

Incontinence is not a normal part of aging and, in most cases, can be treated successfully. Incontinence can happen to anyone not just to people who have dementia or other mental problems. There are two main categories of incontinence: transient (or short-term) incontinence and chronic (or long term) incontinence.

Types of bladder incontinence

Stress Incontinence is caused by poor pelvic muscle control. Any extra pressure or stress causes urine to leak out.

Urge Incontinence is also called “overactive bladder”. The bladder is hyper. Even small amounts of urine can trigger the bladder to “let go!”

Overflow Incontinence is caused by weak bladder muscles or a blockage. The bladder is always full and urine dribbles out constantly.

Functional Incontinence means not being able to get to the toilet in time because of problems with moving, thinking, and communicating.

Reflex Incontinence means there is no urge to urinate. The bladder just empties when full.

Symptoms of urinary tract infection

  • Pain or burning when urinating

  • Pain in the lower abdomen, stomach or back

  • Chills, fever, sweats

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Frequent need to urinate, incontinence, strong- smelling urine, blood and/or pus in urine.

Many incontinent seniors have chronic UTIs because they are always wet—causing bacteria to grow. The use of catheters to help control incontinence can also cause UTIs.

For many elderly people, incontinence is the only symptom of a UTI.

Five key points about incontinence of the bowel and bladder

  1. More than half of all seniors requiring assistance suffer from either bowel or bladder incontinence. Many suffer from both.

  2. Chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in people who are incontinent of bowel and/or bladder.

  3. Caring for incontinent loved ones can be overwhelming. It’s one of the main reasons families seek long term care in the first place.

  4. Being incontinent is embarrassing. Be patient and understanding with those who suffer.

  5. Depression is a common problem for incontinent people.

Source: In the Know Caregiver Training; Homecare Pulse


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