How To Manage Incontinence with Seniors

While it can be perceived as an embarrassing condition, incontinence in the elderly is actually quite common and can typically be managed with proper care and attention. But first, what is incontinence and why does it happen?


What is it?

Incontinence refers to the inability to control any accidental or involuntary reaction or release of one’s bladder or bowels. It’s more common in older people, and especially in women. In fact, nearly 13 million people struggle with urinary incontinence and one in five individuals over the age of 40 suffer from overactive symptoms. 

Why does it happen?

Our bodies store urine in the bladder. Before urination, the muscles in our bladders tighten to move urine from the bladder to the urethra. While this is happening, the muscles in the urethra simultaneously relax in order to let urine pass from the body. However, when there is an issue with muscle relaxation, urine can leak and, therefore, lead to incontinence. 

So why does this tend to happen more frequently in the elderly? There are a number of causes, including, but not limited to:

  • Weak or overactive bladder muscles

  • Nerve damage surrounding the bladder from diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes or multiple sclerosis

  • Diseases like arthritis that can impact how quickly an individual can get to a bathroom

  • Diseases like Alzheimer’s where a person may not realize they need to go to the bathroom, forget they have to go to the bathroom, or cannot recall the location of the bathroom

How to Manage Incontinence

There are specific precautions you may want to take when it comes to dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s / dementia and is struggling with incontinence. Some helpful tips include:

  • Avoid providing beverages that may incite urination; specifically caffeinated drinks, soda, coffee, tea. However, do not limit or reduce water intake, just be mindful of consumption.

  • Make sure access to the bathroom is clear, well-lit and devoid of clutter.

  • Offer regular bathroom breaks so that your loved one does not forget to go.

  • Ensure your loved one has undergarments that are easy to get on & off; and provide absorbent underclothes for when you take trips out of the house.

For elderly folks without Alzheimer’s / dementia, you’ll want to adhere to and apply many of the same tips. There are additional measures to consider as well:

  • Bladder control training, which typically refers to kegel exercises, biofeedback, timed voiding (or urinating on a set schedule), and general lifestyle changes. This may include reducing caffeine or alcohol intake, losing weight, and avoiding drinking anything close to bedtime.

  • Medication can either help to empty the bladder more completely or tighten muscles in an effort to lessen leakage.

  • Medical devices or treatments, like injections that can help to relieve or temper stress incontinence in females.

  • Nerve stimulation treatments or surgeries that function to remove blockages or adjust the position of the bladder.

  • Invest in a steady supply of incontinence products, including: adult diapers, furniture pads, urine deodorizing pills and special skin cleansers.

If you’re currently managing or anticipate dealing with incontinence in your elderly loved one, we’re sure our community would love to hear advice as well as field any questions that you may have. What’s your most memorable incontinence moment?

CareZare is a FREE app for family caregivers to help them manage their care team and ensure the highest level of care for their loved one.