Urinary incontinence can affect men or women of any age but the problem does increase with age. It is a common problem and for those over 60 as many as 15 to 35 percent will suffer from urinary incontinence. That number nearly doubles for women. When caregivers were polled more than 53 percent of caregivers patients were incontinent. It ranks as one of the leading problems in individuals who are homebound. Medical charges for treating bladder incontinence are the largest expense for nursing services with the Medicare program.
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Bladder incontinence is the number one reason for elderly patients to be placed in nursing homes and extended care facilities. At least half of all admissions list incontinence as the reason for institutionalization. The incontinent patient requires extra staff time, extra training, and increased cost of nursing supplies. Urinary incontinence causes psychological effects as well as physical problems such as limited mobility, bedsores, and rashes. This adds more cost to the care of the incontinent patient. Estimates for the cost of medical care for incontinent patients are over five billion dollars!
It’s important for caregivers and primary doctors recognize the types of urinary incontinence and what medicines and treatments are right for each type. Aging causes problems in the urinary tract including bladder elasticity. This means the bladder does not stretch as far to hold urine and a patient may find they have a need to void more often.
Other problems that occur with elderly patients are loosening and relaxing of the muscles used to control urine. Elderly patients can be taught to do the simple Kegel exercises and improve their chances of staying dry. Women are more prone to urinary incontinence because of pregnancy and childbirth, C-Sections, and thinning and drying of the vaginal wall and urethra.
The bladder is controlled by the external urethral sphincter and automated by the nervous system. The signals are sent to the cortex of the brain and the brain creates the urge to urinate. When the body feels that “urge” the brain triggers the internal and external sphincters to relax and the bladder contracts to void itself of urine.
Elderly men may suffer from urinary incontinence because of an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. They may have the urge to go but will not be able to urinate when they get to the bathroom. They may find themselves feeling the urge to go more often, especially during the night. Frequent need to go can decrease the quality of life of men who suffer from overactive bladder and incontinence. They may be fear going out of town, taking part in regular and normal routines, or getting out of the house at all.
Medications are available to help control an overactive bladder for women and men. Most men and women who have problems with urinary incontinence can be significantly helped and even cured with exercises, change in diet, and medications. The first step is to talk to your doctor openly and honestly about your incontinence problems.