April 5th, 2020
Incontinence in Senior Women
The Continence Foundation of Australia has said that “at least four million women in Australia have their quality of life as well as physical and mental health affected by urinary or faecal incontinence”. Urinary incontinence is more common in seniors, especially women, yet it can often be cured or controlled.
What causes bladder control problems?
Your body stores urine in your bladder and when you need to pass your urine, the muscles in your bladder tighten to move urine into a tube called the urethra. When the muscles in and around your bladder don’t work the way they should, you can have problems with incontinence.
Most common types of incontinence experienced by older women
There are many different types of incontinence and the most common types are:
Stress incontinence, which occurs without warning when you cough, sneeze, get up from a chair or bed or lift something. It occurs because the pelvic floor has weakened and no longer holds the bladder up within the pelvis as well as it did when your body was younger
Urge incontinence is when you get a strong urge to pass urine and then experience incontinence before or as you get to the toilet.
Mixed incontinence is a problem where both of the above two types of incontinence at the same time.
Functional incontinence occurs when people have normal bladder control but have problems getting to the toilet because of medical problems such as arthritis which makes it difficult to move to the toilet quickly enough.
Overflow incontinence is most commonly caused by an enlarged prostate. This can cause a situation where the bladder is blocked from emptying completely because of the severe constipation. Generally, in women, this can be treated quickly by addressing the constipation problem.
Atonic bladder occurs when the bladder nerves have been damaged. This nerve damage can then affect the sufferer knowing when they need to empty their bladder and then their ability to empty their bladder.
You can access help by:
- talking with your GP
- calling your local Community Health Centre and asking if there is availability of a continence service
- contacting a local physiotherapist to ask if they know of a continence service, or
- calling the Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66 which is staffed by Nurse Continence Specialists who offer free and confidential information, advice and support.
Sometimes the treatments could be a change of your medications, bladder retraining and/or an easy exercise program. An individually timed toileting program can assist and in many cases certain lifestyle changes can create an improvement. Such changes can be through:
- a weight loss program (even losing just a couple of kilograms can make a difference)
- quitting smoking (which can cause a chronic cough and strain on your pelvic floor)
- reduction in alcohol consumption (the alcohol can cause irritation within the bladder)
- reduction in caffeine consumption (often found in tea, coffee, chocolate)
- avoiding constipation through a good diet and increased water intake
- avoiding lifting heavy objects (which will increase the pressure on the pelvic floor) and,
- increased consumption of water (which will dilute the urine and encourage the bladder to hold a greater volume of urine)