Urinary incontinence is a medical issue that affects many people of any age. However, seniors are far more prone to the issue than other age groups, making it a very common problem for the elderly. It is important to do all you can to lessen the issue, as it can lead to further medical complications. This is mainly due to the fact that more frequent visits to the bathroom also means higher levels of mobility, which in turn increases the risk of falling and breaking bones; particularly if your bathroom is located upstairs.
Firstly, it is important to be aware that an underlying medical problem may actually cause this issue. It is, therefore, a good idea to check with your doctor that there aren’t any simple medical treatments that can quickly resolve your difficulties. However, if your incontinence is simply down to ageing, there are a number of ways that you can reduce the issue and gain some relief.
Food and drink are one of the major triggers of urinary incontinence, so tweaking your diet a little may be beneficial. Here are some of the main trigger foods:
Spicy food can be irritating to your mouth and digestive system, so it is not a surprise that they can also irritate the bladder. This is because the lining of your bladder is not well suited to dealing with spicy foods; as a result, increasing the urge to go to the bathroom. Switching out the spices from your diet for milder flavours and herbs will help to relieve any symptoms.
Avoiding sugary foods will also lessen symptoms, as it is known for bladder irritation and an increase in symptoms. Unfortunately, the same goes for substitute sweet flavourings, such as honey and artificial sweeteners. Sticking to healthy savoury snacks instead of sweet treats will be beneficial not just for incontinence issues, but also for weight and mental wellbeing, so it’s not all bad news! However, salty snacks should also be avoided, as salt causes your body to retain water. While this may seem like a good thing, as it will temporarily relieve your symptoms, eventually it will make your symptoms increase rapidly as the salt gets released. Look for foods with both a low sugar and low sodium content.
While we are recommended to drink around eight glasses of fluids a day, there are some beverages that will not help us out when it comes to urinary incontinence. Many elderly people become severely dehydrated as they are afraid to drink enough based on their incontinence issues. It is very important to stay hydrated, and choosing water over other drink types can be the best way to do this without the fear of having an accident. You don’t have to keep up with the recommended eight glasses, but remembering to take sips whenever you feel thirsty is essential.
Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks all contain caffeine which is a stimulant to the bladder. Many of us cannot go a day without a warm beverage to start the day, but even reducing this down to one cup a day can really help. You can also switch to caffeine-free herbal teas for added benefits. While it may seem that non-caffeinated fizzy drinks may be fine, the bubbles also irritate the bladder, so eliminating all carbonated drinks from your diet is key. Juices can also be bad for a number of reasons, as acidic juices like orange can increase symptoms, as can the amount of sugar in each drink.
It’s also bad news for those of you who enjoy a pint or a glass of wine each evening! Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it increases the production of urine. It will also reduce your ability to control your bladder.
There are a number of quick and easy ways to make your home more suitable for dealing with incontinence issues. Firstly, ensuring that all hallways and stairs on the way to the bathroom are free of clutter so that there is nothing in the way to slow you down. This also helps to reduce the risk of falls. Secondly, putting rails around the toilet, or installing a larger seat area can ease lowering and raising yourself onto and off the toilet.
If making it to the bathroom in time is a real struggle, then a relatively cheap way around this is to acquire a commode. Alternatively, if you have space (an under-the-stairs cupboard will do) but do not have a downstairs bathroom, you could look to getting a simple toilet and sink fitted. A downstairs lavatory is handy if you are in the kitchen or living room so that you do not have to venture upstairs. While this is likely to be a little pricier than the other options, it will save you a lot of time, effort, and potentially, embarrassment.
Wearing loose fitting clothing, or items that are easy to remove, fixed with Velcro or ties as opposed to the more fiddly buttons and poppers, can help when trying to get to the bathroom in a hurry. It can also make it easier if you need to change your clothing. If you are regularly wetting your clothes, then you may want to get a designated basket with a lid to store them in until you wash them, although, it is important to wash them as soon as you can to avoid staining. There are caring services available to help deal with laundry and personal care if needed.
The other clothing item for dealing with incontinence is, of course, the specially designed pads and underwear for the issue. These are made with a special material that absorbs leaks and keeps the skin dry. Pads can help a lot for older people who are worried about going out in public. Likewise, pads and protectors can be obtained for chairs to stop leaks on furniture. It is important to regularly change all of these pads, as leaving on wet items can cause damage to the skin.
If you are looking for more senior advice, then check out the Wise Old Elephant blog!