Incontinence is something that we seldom talk about. Most people are embarrassed by it, and they often decide that keeping their troubles secret is the best option. This is unfortunate because incontinence is not only common but often treatable. However, not addressing it can result in a permanent health concern.

According to the National Association of Continence, more than 25-million Americans are facing bowel or bladder control concerns. However, only one out of 12 seeks help or professional guidance. This is concerning because, while some lifestyle choices can contribute to incontinence, in many cases, it is a sign of an underlying health concern. Failing to address it only makes the problem worse and reduces options for resolving it.

Detecting Incontinence

If your loved one is incontinent, you may not immediately realize it. Many seniors are quite good at hiding the problem. Still, there are some signs to watch out for:

  • Frequent Accidents
  • An odor on the person, clothing or bedding
  • Stains in undergarments
  • Frequent trips to the restroom
  • Avoiding spending time outside of the home or with other people

If you suspect incontinence, it is a good idea to discuss the concern with your loved one. Remain patient during the conversation and always consider the sensitive nature of the topic. Encourage the senior to speak with a medical professional, and offer support if they need it.

Diagnosing the Concern

Several things can bring on incontinence ranging from needing to drink more water or constantly “holding it” to some medications. Medical concerns including urinary tract infections, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer or diabetes might also impact a senior’s ability to control urination and defecation. The best way to diagnose the underlying problem is through a physical and diagnostic testing. Your loved one’s doctor can order the appropriate tests including a urinalysis and blood work.
Keeping a bowel and bladder diary for a few days before the appointment is often helpful. Include when the senior uses the restroom, the amount of urine released, any accidents and what they are eating, drinking or doing anytime incontinence occurs. Share this information with the doctor during the discussion and a questioning portion of the exam.

In some cases, initial testing will not reveal the cause of incontinence. When this happens, additional testing may be necessary. Some options include:

  • Using ultrasound testing after urination
  • Filling the bladder using a catheter to measure pressure
  • Injecting dye into the bladder
  • Cystoscopy to check capacity or for the presence of stones, tumors or cancer

A Treatable Condition

For the vast majority of seniors, incontinence is treatable. Options might include modifying daily habits and behaviors, taking a course of antibiotics, using other medications, pelvic floor exercises or bladder training. In some cases, the use of medical devices or surgery is necessary, but these are often considered only after all other treatment options have been tried.

Tips for Managing Incontinence

Through the course of treatment and on a more permanent basis moving forward, it is important to help the senior manage incontinence in the most effective and least embarrassing way. This helps them to feel more confident and less restricted by the condition. It can also make the treatment path a more positive one. Some seniors benefit by using incontinence supplies including pads or disposable undergarments. It is also important to ensure they are making it to the restroom in a timely manner despite any physical or cognitive limitations. For many, the assistance of a professional in home caregiver is beneficial. These individuals are trained to assist seniors in maintaining hygiene and managing incontinence in a discreet and caring way that preserves dignity.


Incontinence is a sensitive topic, but it is one that we need to pay more attention to. For a senior, finding a solution to this problem often makes life more enjoyable and helps to support aging in place. If your loved one is struggling with incontinence, we encourage you to seek medical assistance and find the right treatment. If you need support, Salus Homecare San Gabriel Valley is always here to help with accredited in home care that preserves health and quality of life. Reach out to us with questions or to learn more.

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