Incontinence is a condition that older people commonly face as they age. It is especially hard to see our parents suffer from it. The good news is that incontinence can be treated, or at least minimized, and we can help reduce the number of accidents that can occur and embarrass our parents. One way to do this is with an incontinence care plan.
What is Causing the Incontinence?
The first step to creating an incontinence care plan is to determine what is causing our parents’ incontinence. It may be common to see older people with incontinence, but it isn’t guaranteed that incontinence will occur. In fact, many cases of incontinence are curable, so leaving our family members to suffer with it isn’t our only option.
A good doctor can diagnose incontinence, and may refer the parent to a specialist, or even treat him or her directly. This may include blood tests, urinalysis, a physical exam, and questions concerning the parent’s medical history. Depending on the diagnosis, there are usually ways to treat or at least cope with the incontinence.
In some cases it may be something biological, such as a urinary tract infection or an enlarged prostate. In these cases, treating our parents with medication is the most effective. In other cases our parents may need a behavioral treatment plan that can end incontinence for good. This plan may include Kegels, which are special pelvic muscle strengthening exercises that will help our parents control the need to “go.”
Start a Diary
Keeping a diary can help us determine how much fluid and food our loved ones ingest, and how often they need to go to the bathroom. Cutting down fluids doesn’t help incontinence; in fact, reducing fluids can actually worsen the problem, as it can cause urinary tract infections and constipation. We need to be sure our parents drink at least six to eight glasses of water daily, and eat a balanced diet with enough fiber so that they aren’t constipated.
Once you can see the pattern of their needs to eliminate, we can put together a schedule that will help them to urinate or defecate before they soil themselves. That way, they can learn slowly how to control their urges, even if they’ve suffered from a stroke or some other neurological condition.
Make a Schedule
One of the best things we can do is make a schedule that ensures our parents relieve themselves before they have an accident. If we can simply ask them every two to four hours if they need to urinate or defecate, it may be all they need to prevent an accident. If they still have accidents, make a plan for them to use the bathroom on a schedule, such as when they get up, after they eat or drink, before and after they exercise, and before they go to bed. They should not drink within two hours before bedtime. Using special incontinence underwear or incontinence panties and bed pads that absorb any accidents will help keep them dry. Once soiled, any bedding and clothing needs to be changed out, and the soiled clothes need to be washed.
With a plan in place, you and your loved ones will feel empowered to meet incontinence head on, and rise above its symptoms. For more information on helping a parent or loved one with incontinence. visit our caregiver resource center.