Ageing Gracefully: Coping with Urinary Incontinence in Senior Years

A condition where a person loses control over their bladder, resulting in urine leakage
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A learned senior citizen, who was a retired college professor, was invited to deliver a lecture, but it was observed that he was not comfortable on the dais and frequently visited the washroom. Later, he declined to deliver lectures at key conferences, which badly affected his mental health.

One of the authors of this article received a call from a retired senior citizen, who congratulated Greater Kashmir and the Gauri Old-Age Clinic initiative for highlighting the issues and challenges faced by senior citizens. The retired professor suggested that Greater Kashmir should publish an article on urinary incontinence in senior citizens, which is a common problem that many seniors face.

Urinary incontinence is a condition where a person loses control over their bladder, resulting in urine leakage. This condition is more prevalent in senior citizens due to age-related changes in the bladder and its surrounding muscles. However, many seniors are embarrassed to talk about this issue, which can affect their physical and mental health.

Publishing an article on urinary incontinence in senior citizens can help raise awareness about this issue and provide valuable information on how to manage it. The article can also encourage seniors to seek medical help and support from their loved ones.

It is important to address the challenges and issues faced by senior citizens and provide them with the necessary support and care. By highlighting these issues, we can create a more inclusive and supportive society for our elderly citizens.

Types of urinary incontinence in the Elderly

Stress incontinence occurs when urine leaks as pressure is exerted on the urinary bladder, such as during workout, coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting hefty objects.

Urge incontinence happens when senior citizens have an impulsive need to urinate and cannot hold their urine long enough to get to the washroom. It may be a problem with senior citizens with co-morbidities like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke.

Overflow incontinence occurs when a small quantity of urine leaks from a bladder that is always full. A senior citizen can have trouble emptying his urinary bladder if an enlarged prostate is obstructing the urethra. Diabetes and spinal cord injuries can also result in this type of incontinence.

Functional incontinence occurs in many senior citizens who have normal bladder control. They just have a problem moving to the toilet quickly because of arthritis or other disorders

Urinary Incontinence in Alzheimer’s disease

Senior Citizens in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease encounter problems with urinary incontinence. This can be due to not realizing they need to urinate, forgetting to go to the washroom, or not being able to locate the toilet.

Treating Urinary Incontinence: Due to the advancement in medical sciences we have today, more treatments and effective ways to manage urinary incontinence than ever before. The choice of treatment depends on the type of bladder control problem senior citizens have, how serious it is, and what best fits their lifestyle.

Some tips to overcome urinary incontinence:

} Pelvic muscle exercises and scheduling time to urinate. For example, they can set a plan to urinate every hour. With the passage of time , they can slowly extend the time between toilet breaks.

} Avoid drinks like caffeinated coffee, tea, and sodas, which may result in frequent urination, but do not limit intake of water.

} Keep passages clear and the washroom clutter-free, with a light on at all times.

} Use undergarments that are easy to get on and off, and absorbent briefs or adult diapers for trips away from home.

} Regular exercise, losing weight, quitting smoking, saying “no” to liquor, choosing water instead of other drinks.

} Preventing constipation.

When to consult a doctor

} Frequent Urination

} Hazy urine

} Signs of blood in the urine

} Feeling pain while urinating

} Urinating ten or more times in one day

} Passing only small quantity of urine after strong urge to urinate

} Trouble starting or having a weak stream while urinating

Please do not experiment with self-medications, or prescribed by friends, relatives and others. Consult your doctor.

We have a distressing case of an elderly woman who was subjected to abuse by her caregivers due to her urinary incontinence. The situation became so severe that the woman began to avoid drinking water for fear of being mistreated by her caretakers. Tragically, she eventually passed away from kidney failure.

This case highlights the importance of treating our elderly citizens with respect, dignity, and compassion, especially when it comes to sensitive health issues like urinary incontinence. It is unacceptable for anyone, let alone caregivers, to subject an elderly person to abuse or neglect due to a medical condition that they cannot control.

It is crucial that we educate caregivers and the broader community on how to provide appropriate care for seniors with urinary incontinence. This includes understanding the causes of the condition, implementing strategies to manage it, and creating a safe and supportive environment that fosters the physical and emotional well-being of seniors.

We must work together as a society to ensure that our elderly citizens are treated with the care, respect, and dignity they deserve. Any form of abuse or neglect towards them is completely unacceptable and must be addressed immediately.

Dr Zubair Saleem is a Senior Geriatric Consultant and Gerontologist and Dr Showkat Rashid Wani is a Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK

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