Are you afraid to laugh for fear you might ‘leak’? Do you avoid drinking fluids or dining out because you have sudden urges ‘to go’ that can be very inconvenient? Is your elder suffering from dehydration because they refuse fluids because of what fluids can make happen to them? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, then incontinence might be the underlying issue that is wreaking havoc with your life.
We found that “[m]ost people take bladder and bowel control for granted — until something goes wrong” is the topic sentence to many a blog post about incontinence. We wondered why, until our digging showed us that this is a big problem for many people – and they never saw it coming.
In Part 1 of this series on incontinence we will take a general look at what incontinence is and who it impacts.
Incontinence is not an unusual problem. Dr. Richard Foxx reports, “[a]n estimated 32 million Americans have incontinence”.
The Latin word continentem (nom. continens) means “to hold together”, while incontinentem (nom. Incontinens) means “not holding together”. Medical News Today provides, ‘The English word incontinent meaning unable to control bowels or bladder was probably first used in 1828′.
Medical News Today goes on to report that:
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine; in simple terms, to wee when you don’t intend to. It is the inability to hold urine in the bladder because voluntary control over the urinary sphincter is either lost or weakened. Fecal incontinence means the inability to control one’s bowel movements.
Urinary incontinence is a much more common problem than most people realize. In the United Kingdom it is estimated that at any one time at least 3 million people – 5% of the total population – suffer from urinary incontinence. The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that approximately 13 million Americans suffer from urinary incontinence.
Urinary incontinence is more common among women than men. 10% to 30% of American women/girls aged 15-64 years are thought to suffer from it, compared to between 1.5% and 5% of men. Over half of all nursing home residents are thought to be affected by urinary incontinence. The Department of Health, UK, estimates that 20% of all women over the age of 40 are affected by urinary incontinence.
Often, the causes of incontinence are out of a person’s control. For example, in women, incontinence is a common side effect of childbirth. For men, it’s most often a side effect of treatment for prostate problems.
It is important to understand that incontinence is a multifaceted problem.
First, it is a systemic health problem. Physical conditions linked to incontinence include infection, skin irritations, falls, fractures, and sleep disturbances.
Second, dehydration is often an associated problem to incontinence as people limit sufficient intake of fluids in an effort to reduce the incontinence symptoms.
Third, incontinence is a social problem. Most people with incontinence suffer social embarrassment.
Fourth, incontinence can contribute to the onset of depression. This happens most often when people limit their social activities away from home, or away from people in general, leading to isolation and loneliness.
Caregivers who do not avail themselves of education for their job cannot expect an easy time of it, they cannot expect better pay or better assignments.
Many people with incontinence are too embarrassed to talk to their physician about it. They “cope” or “just learn to live with it.” This is changing gradually as people realize that help is available and that the problem is wide spread.
A significant percentage of elderly people who live at home and in nursing homes are affected by urinary incontinence. As a matter of fact, incontinence is a major reason for people being admitted to nursing homes. However, incontinence is not an inevitable consequence of aging. Properly trained caregivers can manage incontinence, and even help reduce the problem.
The unintended loss of urine or feces that is significant enough to make it difficult for the elderly to maintain good hygiene and carry on ordinary social and work lives and places a special burden on the elderly and their caregivers. Senior Care Auditors can help detect incontinence issues that your frail elder might not tell you about. Certified Senior Care Auditors are trained to spot signs of incontinence and related health and skin problems and can report those findings to you immediately, saving your elder embarrassment and difficulty in relating the problem to you.
The good news is that treatments are becoming more effective and less invasive. Some require no medication or surgery of any kind. Some are even free of cost. If you have problems with the unintentional loss of urine, don’t suffer in silence. Talk with your doctor.
Let’s Talk About Incontinence is a multi part series, sponsored by the caregiver certification company CertifiedCare, discussing the prevalent conditions, symptoms, and treatment best practices related to urinary and bowel incontinence in older people.
Health News, February 2015: Illustration cartoon image