Incontinence is Not a Normal Part of Aging

It’s not something many people talk about, although certainly the related products have improved significantly in recent years, but incontinence is an extremely common problem among seniors over the age of 65 and it can lead to social isolation, depression, urinary tract infections, skin lesions and falls, from rushing to the bathroom. 

According to the British Geriatrics Society Blog, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men over the age of 65 suffer urinary incontinence, a leading cause of admission to a nursing home.  In addition, fecal incontinence affects up to 10 per cent of the older population and as much as 60 per cent of nursing home residents with cognitive impairment.

Improving continence care in elderly people is the focus of a talk Vikky Morris, Chair of the BGS Bladder and Bowels Special Interest Group, will be giving in September in Manchester.  Her interest lies in better training for health care workers about the complex issue of incontinence and how it relates to other heath conditions, frailty and medication side effects and drug interactions.  

Other neurological conditions such as dementia may also affect incontinence.  People with dementia may need to be prompted to use the bathroom.  And frail elderly adults may need help getting to and from the bathroom to avoid wetting themselves.  

Canadian clinical nurse specialist in Geropsychiatry Marcia Carr, who is a nurse continence advisor, firmly believes that solving continence issues also solves falls and the injuries that accompany them for many aging seniors.

Bladder problems are often unreported because people believe it is a normal part of aging and cannot be treated. In fact, many cases of incontinence are a result of a medical condition called over-active bladder which can be treated with medication.  Stress incontinence, leaking urine when laughing or coughing, can also be treated with physiotherapy or in some cases a newer surgery which uses a tension-free tape in a less invasive procedure than was used prior to the mid-1990s.  Learn more about newer treatment options for incontinence in the Age and Ageing Journal, from the British Geriatric Society. 

Treating incontinence and properly caring for people with incontinence is vital to prevent delicate skin from breaking down and becoming painful or infected.  Skin should be kept clean and dry using a soap-free cleanser without perfumes, alcohol or disinfectants.  Change pads often to keep skin dry.  Learn more by visiting the Continence Foundation of Australia website here