Caring for Someone with Incontinence
What Is Incontinence
Millions of people suffer from incontinence each year. Having the discussion with a loved one about incontinence may not be easy, but it is a very important one to have. Along with selling incontinence underwear, Wearever® also provides resources to learn more about incontinence so you can better handle the conversation.
There are 4 different forms of incontinence.
- Stress incontinence
- Urge incontinence
- Overflow incontinence
- Fecal incontinence
Each of these types is very different.
- Stress incontinence: Refers to stress or heavy burden on the pelvic muscles.
- Urge incontinence: Refers to the constant feeling of having to "go."
- Overflow incontinence: Occurs when the body does not send a sufficient signal for timely relief.Symptoms can include either not sensing when “it's time”, or too much of a delay in sensing.
- Fecal incontinence: Applies the symptoms and effects of overflow incontinence to bowel-movement process.
Because each of these is unique, they must be handled differently. Please consult a doctor if someone you know is suffering from incontinence as the below information is not meant to treat or diagnose, only to inform.
Symptoms and Causes Incontinence
As stated above, urinary incontinence is the inability to control one’s bladder. Throughout the day, someone without incontinence should urinate four to eight times daily. This number can change depending on the amount of liquid someone drinks as well as the amount of food ingested throughout the day. Someone with incontinence will have the urge to use the bathroom more often. Often, those dealing with incontinence will experience occasional leaks or dribbles, while others may wet their clothes more frequently. Wearing incontinence underwear by Wearever® can prevent clothes from getting wet.
It is important to understand that urinary incontinence isn't a disease. It's a symptom. Incontinence can be caused by everyday habits, pre-existing medical conditions or chronic physical problems. If symptoms of incontinence start to appear it is important that you contact a doctor immediately. Over 13 million people worldwide are affected by urinary incontinence, mostly women. According to a study conducted by the University of Washington, incontinence affects 28% of women ages 30 to 39, 41% of those ages 40 to 49, and almost half of all women 50 and older. Men are also affected by Incontinence and 5-7% of men under 64 and 10-20% of men over 64 experience some kind of urinary leakage.
- One of the most common causes is a weakened pelvic muscle. The pelvic muscle is responsible for keeping the urethra closed throughout the day. When this muscle is weakened it cannot control urination, which leads to leakage.
- Another common cause of incontinence among younger women is pregnancy. After a child is born, many new mothers experience incontinence. The combination of hormonal changes, pressure on the bladder and the exertion during childbirth can weaken the pelvic muscle, leading to incontinence.
- Menopause is another common cause of incontinence amongst older women. The changes in hormone levels affect the muscles around the pelvis.
- Weight plays a factor in whether or not someone suffers from incontinence. There is a direct correlation between being overweight and incontinence due to the extra weight on the midsection and the resulting pressure on the bladder. This type of incontinence is classified as stress incontinence.
In men, the causes can be a little different.
- A swollen prostate is one very common cause of incontinence among men. The prostate is a male gland about the size and shape of a walnut. It surrounds the urethra just below the bladder, where it adds fluid to semen before ejaculation, as defined by the National Institutes of Health. This gland grows in men as they age, and in some cases, the enlargement can become troublesome. As the prostate enlarges, it squeezes the urethra, which can often lead to accidental leakages.
- Another very common factor for incontinence is having prostate surgery. Immediately following the surgery, muscles are often temporarily weaker, which can cause stress incontinence. The surgery is a shock to the body and many muscles need to be re-strengthened. With treatment, someone can start to see improvements with urine flow and bladder control within 6 months after surgery. If symptoms continue, contact a doctor.
- Urinary tract infections often cause an overactive bladder, which can cause incontinence. A Urinary Tract Infection, aka UTI, is an infection of the urinary tract. Infections have a tendency to irritate the bladder, which would cause someon to have strong urges to urinate. These urges often lead to incontinence, and can be a first warning of a UTI. Some other possible signs of a urinary tract infection and symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating, or foul-smelling urine.
- Pre-existing medical conditions are often a cause of incontinence, particularly strokes, dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spina bifida, MS, or diabetes. Each of these conditions affects the nervous system, which interrupts the brain from communicating with the muscles in your body.
Who Does Incontinence Affect?
As mentioned above, incontinence affects more women than men, and those men affected are usually over 60 years of age. Women, however, can be affected during all stages of life.
Incontinence in Young Women and New Mothers
While incontinence is most prominent with women over the age of 50, most new mothers tend to suffer from incontinence for several weeks after giving birth. It is estimated that 15% to 25% of women under 60 are dealing with urinary incontinence, too. For these women, incontinence is caused from 9 months of pressure on the uterus and a weakening of the pelvic muscle. What these woman are experiencing is called stress incontinence, which can occur when a woman is exercising, laughing, sneezing or engaging in sexual intercourse.
Incontinence in Post Menopausal Women
Between 25%-45% of women suffer from urinary incontinence, and most of them are over the age of 50. During menopause, the level of estrogen will significantly drop in women, and that level will continue to drop throughout the remainder of their lives. Estrogen helps keep the bladder and urethra healthy and strong. With the decline in estrogen, the pelvic muscles weaken, leading to an increased risk of bladder leakage.
Incontinence in Men
Most men with incontinence have additional medical issues, such as nerve damage, diabetes or prostate cancer. If you believe someone you know is suffering from incontinence it is important to discuss with them as well as contact a doctor.
Incontinence in Children
While incontinence usually affects older women, children are not immune to incontinence. A child suffering from incontinence will often wet their bed during the night. Often times in children, will be affected by Urinary Incontinence due to a larger health issue such as:
- A Urinary Tract Infection
- Kidney problems
- Nerve problems
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
By no means does this mean that someone who suffers from incontinence is also suffering from another illness. If you feel that a child has incontinence, be sure to consult a doctor. If you are concerned that your child is consistently wetting the bed, Wearever® has mattress pads to keep the bed dry throughout the night.
Common Treatments & Solutions:
Once you have determined that someone you know has incontinence, there are several things you can do to improve the condition. The first step is to sit down and have a conversation with the person to help them understand what incontinence is.
Nothing here should override what a licensed doctor instructs. With all that being said, there are some at non-medical, at home exercises that someone can do to strengthen the core muscles that lead to incontinence.
Exercises for Beating Incontinence
Kegel Exercises are a great way to strengthen the pelvic muscles and to combat incontinence. There are two types of Kegels, Basic and Advanced. Be sure to start off with Basic before moving on to Advanced Kegels.
- The first thing you must do is locate the muscles that control urination and flow. The easiest and best way to identify these muscles is to begin urinating (over a toilet) and then stop the stream. Hold this for five seconds. The muscles that clench are the ones that should be worked on for strengthening.
- Once the pelvic muscles are identified, you can sit on the floor and work on holding the muscles at five-second intervals. Such exercises can literally be practiced anywhere - in the car, in your office, at home watching TV, etc. And the best part – No one else has to know! After this step, you can move on to more advanced Kegel exercises.
- Deep Flex: The deep flex is more advanced than simply working out the pelvic muscles in five second intervals. The deep flex does involve doing this, but doing it with more intensity. For instance, it involves clenching the pelvic muscles for five-second intervals, gradually trying to work your way up to 10-second intervals. This exercise will strengthen the muscles more quickly.
Getting fit and losing weight are two great ways to improve continence. By eating better and working out you can improve overall physical condition, which will relieve some of the stress off the bladder and strengthen pelvis muscles.
We have compiled a list of incontinence friendly recipes that are not only delicious but also great for improving incontinence. A small study in Tel Aviv found that magnesium has a positive effect on improving incontinence. By adding magnesium to a diet you may see an improvement in bladder leakage.
Scheduled toilet trips
By going to the bathroom on a schedule you can reduce the urge to go throughout the day. Scheduling times to go to the bathroom every two to four hours will help alleviate incontinence.
If after consulting a doctor, and trying some of the above at home remedies for incontinence you feel that further treatment is necessary, there are several medical treatments available to improve incontinence, starting with medication. There are several different medications a doctor can prescribe for specific situations.
There are also some medical devices you can get to help relieve the need to consistently go to the bathroom. Urethral inserts or pessaries are two tools that doctors can prescribe.
A last-case scenario is to have surgery. Some commonly used procedures specifically designed for incontinence are:
- Sling procedures: This is when strips of body tissue, synthetic material or mesh are used to create a pelvic sling around the bladder neck and urethra.
- Bladder neck suspension: This procedure is designed to provide support to the urethra and bladder neck.
And for men,
- Prostate Surgery: Surgery on the prostate can greatly reduce incontinence. It may take time as the muscles strengthen, but after some time, you’ll start to see improvement.
Lifestyle (Living Your Life)
Incontinence shouldn’t prevent someone from living the life they want and are accustomed to living! There are millions of men and women who suffer from incontinence and still live a regular, normal lifestyle. Incontinence does affect most aspects of life, but using any of the above treatments can greatly improve someone’s lifestyle in several ways.
Kegels are not only great for incontinence, they have also been known to greatly improve sexual performance in both men & women. Practicing kegels has been proven to increase sexual performance by increasing the amount of time it takes for a man to reach full orgasm, as well as a stronger, more intense ejaculation. It can have a positive effect on women’s sexual performance as well. In women, studies have shown that kegels can also help someone reach a full range of orgasms.
When preparing for a trip, there are several things you must plan for if you are traveling with someone who suffers from incontinence. If any part of the trip involves traveling by airline or bus, we recommend booking early and requesting a reserved seat on the aisle, near a bathroom. Be sure to inquire about baggage restrictions when booking if you require additional space for incontinence boxers or briefs. An extra supply is advisable in the event of delays. Traveling by car should be planned through major routes that offer ample opportunities for restroom breaks.
Additionally, wearing dark colored clothing to help disguise any accidents or leaks will improve moral, as well as choosing loose fitting clothing that is comfortable and easy to remove.
Most importantly – Make one last trip to the bathroom before you leave. Even if they don’t feel like they have to, go just to be sure!
What they can wear
When suffering from incontinence, it is important to protect the quality of clothes with incontinence underwear. Wearever® Incontinence offers reusable underwear that guaranteed for up to 250 washes. These incontinence boxers, briefs and panties are great to wear under all types of clothing and are appropriate for all activities.
Helping Your Loved One Come to Terms with Incontinence
The best way to approach someone you believe has incontinence is with an open, honest and calm conversation. According to The CareGiver Partnership, this is the perfect first step to take when addressing the issue at hand. Make sure you have plenty of time to sit down and have an in-depth conversation about the symptoms you have noticed and how you just want to get them help. Recognize that this is a sensitive and potentially uncomfortable topic for some, and it is important that you choose your words wisely. You don't want them to feel like you are blaming them or are upset by their incontinence. For more details on how to continue the conversation we have some great blog posts including:
- My Loved One Has Incontinence, but hasn't confronted it, what can I do?
- Help a Loved One with Incontinence Part 1
- Help a Loved One with Incontinence Part 2
It is important for you to know all the facts when dealing with Incontinence. Wearever® has put together a list of other great resources you can use to learn about Incontinence.