Updated: Nov 10
In our work with elderly adults and their families, we understand that caring for an aging parent or relative with urinary and bowel incontinence can be a real challenge and add layers of difficulty to preserving a relationship outside of caregiving. These conditions can be distressing for both the elderly individual and their caregivers. For the senior person, it can mean giving up even more of their autonomy, dignity, and independence, and exposing aspects of their life that most people would wish to keep private. It can also mean a decline in socializing and staying active in order to avoid embarrassment in public due to an accident.
In this blog post, we hope to provide some insight and practical tips from geriatric care management experts that may help both parties better manage this sensitive condition.
Understanding Urinary and Bowel Incontinence
Urinary and bowel incontinence are common issues among the elderly population. According to the National Association for Continence, over 25 million adult Americans experience some form of urinary incontinence, while bowel incontinence affects approximately 5.5 million individuals.
Factors Contributing to Incontinence
Aging: As individuals age, the muscles that control bladder and bowel function may weaken, leading to incontinence.
Chronic Medical Conditions: Conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease can increase the risk of incontinence.
Medications: Some medications can affect bladder or bowel control as a side effect.
Physical Limitations: Mobility issues or physical disabilities may make it challenging for the elderly to reach the bathroom in time.
So, what are some guidelines you can follow as a caretaker to make this easier for yourself and your parent or older relative?
Consult a healthcare professional: Do not assume that this is a normal part of aging or that it’s simply something your parent or loved one must live with. Seek guidance from a healthcare provider to determine the cause and appropriate treatment for incontinence.
Suggest looking into physical therapy: Depending on the main cause of the incontinence, some individuals may benefit from physical therapy exercises that strengthen pelvic floor muscles, improving bladder and bowel control.
Maintain hygiene: Ensure proper hygiene by regularly changing incontinence products and cleaning sensitive areas. Use skin-friendly products to prevent irritation.
Utilize incontinence products: Explore various incontinence products like adult diapers, pads, and protective bedding to manage accidents effectively. They can be a game changer!
Keep open communications: Initiate a non-judgmental conversation with your loved one about their incontinence, its effects on their day-to-day life, and the type of support they would like. Discussing their needs and preferences can help them feel more comfortable and involved in their care.
Schedule bathroom breaks: Work with them to establish a routine for bathroom breaks to minimize accidents. Encourage your loved one to use the bathroom at set times during the day and help them set up reminders on their phone or other device so they can keep track of it themselves as being constantly told to go use the bathroom by an adult child or caregiver can feel infantilizing.
Follow doctor’s orders and tips: A balanced diet and proper hydration can help regulate bowel movements and reduce the risk of constipation, which can worsen incontinence. Encourage your parent or loved one to ask their healthcare providers for tips on how to improve their conditions and help automate their life to make the prescribed plan easier to follow.
Modify the home: Make necessary modifications to your parent or loved one’s home, such as installing handrails and raised toilet seats, to enhance safety and accessibility.
Remember, caring for an aging parent or relative with urinary and bowel incontinence requires patience and understanding. Seek support from support groups, online forums, or healthcare professionals who specialize in geriatric care to ensure the best quality of life for your loved one.
Our team at Senior Steps specializes in providing all-encompassing care for elderly individuals and their families, including planning immediate and long-term care, advocating for the best services, and finding the best and most trusted community resources. If you would like to speak to one of our experts, you can schedule a FREE call through our website or reach out to us directly and confidentially with your questions through any social media platform at no cost.