In Health

Solutions to problems with incontinence in senior citizens

Urinary incontinence is often associated with old age. While any of us can suffer from this affliction at some point in our lives, statistics show that a bladder control problem resulting in involuntary urination affects more than one in five seniors.

However, far from being a mere symptom of old age, incontinence can also be a consequence of illness, injury, surgery or even diet. Regardless of the cause, there are solutions to help manage this condition in seniors. We should bear in mind that the people affected by this problem may suffer acute mental and social distress in addition to physical discomfort.

Different types of incontinence and their causes

Incontinence falls into four categories, depending on how it presents:

  • Stress incontinence frequently affects women as a result of insufficient pelvic recuperation following childbirth. In men, it can be a side effect of prostate surgery. Common physical efforts such as sneezing, coughing or lifting heavy objects can trigger it.
  • Urge incontinence is responsible for 60 to 70 percent of problems with uncontrolled urine leakage in senior citizens. It results in the discharge of a large volume of urine, sometimes occurring when a person feels the need to go to the restroom but isn’t able to get to one in time.
  • When a person is unaware that his or her bladder is full and obstructed, this is known as overflow incontinence.
  • Last, there’s functional incontinence, which occurs when a physical or mental impairment, such as problems with vision, hearing or speech, makes it difficult to express the need to urinate or otherwise impedes timely access to a restroom.

Surgery or slackening of the pelvic muscles can also be at the root of incontinence. Unfortunately, we can point to a wide range of possible causes, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and strokes. Not to mention certain diuretics, which can amplify the phenomenon, or heart and blood pressure medications, which can cause overflow incontinence.

Diet, constipation, infections… The list is far from exhaustive, which is why your first recourse in the event of incontinence should be to consult a specialist.

Solutions for seniors and those around them

To say that incontinence is a source of embarrassment is an understatement. By this point, the feelings of shame are unbearable. Seniors will often prefer to isolate, putting themselves at risk of depression.

Solutions do exist, but it’s important to understand that, depending on how advanced the problem or underlying cause is, it may only be possible to mitigate the problem rather than resolve it completely. Physical therapists will often prescribe Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles. Bladder retraining, on the other hand, is guided by a professional, who establishes a schedule for visits to the restroom, based on the observations the patient has entered in a notebook. Other options particularly include reducing risk factors or facilitating access to a restroom: consuming less alcohol, sugar and caffeine, drinking plenty of water and wearing clothing that’s easy to remove, unbutton or unzip are all little actions that can make a big difference in one’s self-esteem.

Incontinence is a delicate subject to approach, both for the senior and for his or her family. Listening skills, encouragement and a positive attitude are all necessary in order not to aggravate this already troubling situation.

Are you thinking about getting incontinence products for yourself or for a loved one? If so, don’t hesitate to discuss it with the professionals at Elite Comfort. They will advise you with utmost compassion and respect for your independence and your privacy.


Government of Canada. Seniors and Aging – Bladder Control Problems (Incontinence). 2006.

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