Under a doctor's care, incontinence can be treated and often cured. Today there are more treatments for urinary incontinence than ever before. The choice of treatment depends on the type of bladder control problem an older adult has, how serious it is, and what best fits their lifestyle. As a general rule, the simplest and safest treatments should be tried first.
Bladder Control Training
Your doctor may suggest that your aging parent try to get back control of their bladder through training. With bladder training your mom or dad can change how the bladder stores and empties urine. There are several ways to do this.
Pelvic Muscle Exercises: Kegels
This exercise works the muscles that you use to stop urinating. These muscles are the ones used to stop the flow of urine or to keep from passing gas. Making these muscles stronger helps your parent hold urine in their bladder longer. These exercises are easy to do. They can lessen or get rid of stress and urge incontinence.
Often doctors suggest that your parent squeeze and hold these muscles for a certain count, and then relax them. Then repeat this a number of times. Your parent will probably do this several times a day. Your doctor will give you exact directions.
Biofeedback helps your elderly become more aware of signals from their body. This may help him/her regain control over the muscles in the bladder and urethra. Biofeedback can be used to help teach pelvic muscle exercises.
Timed Voiding and Bladder Training
This technique can help your aging parent control their bladder by charting urination and leaking to determine the pattern. Once you see a pattern, help your parent to the bathroom at those times to empty the bladder before they might leak. When combined with biofeedback and pelvic muscle exercises, these methods may help your parent control urge and overflow incontinence.
Lifestyle Changes to Control Incontinence
There are also some changes your parent can make to their diet that could improve bladder control.
Eliminate Caffeine and Alcohol
Beverages containing these items can lead to incontinence. If you are drinking too many fluids a day, they may need to be cut back as well.
Pay Attention to Diet
Among foods and drinks that may worsen incontinence are alcoholic beverages, caffeine-containing foods and drinks, spicy foods, high-acid foods such as citrus fruits and juices, and carbonated drinks. If you notice symptoms of urinary incontinence worsen after your loved one has any of these foods or drinks, try eliminating them or cutting back on them.
Monitor Fluid Intake
Keeping your loved one's daily water intake to a quart or so may help. However, talk to your doctor before making any major changes in fluid intake.
Drink More Cranberry Juice
The acidic nature of cranberry juice has been known to improve bladder function.
Medical Procedures for Incontinence
When lifestyle adjustments aren't enough, turn to your doctor for additional suggestions.
A doctor can prescribe medicines to treat incontinence. Some drugs prevent unwanted bladder contractions. Some relax muscles, helping the bladder to empty more fully during urination. Others tighten muscles in the bladder and urethra to cut down leakage. These drugs can sometimes cause side effects such as dry mouth, eye problems, or urine buildup.
Sometimes doctors suggest a small, throwaway patch; a small, tampon-like urethral plug; or a vaginal insert called a pessary for women with stress incontinence.
A doctor can inject an implant into the area around the urethra. The implant adds bulk. This helps close the urethra to reduce stress incontinence. Injections may have to be repeated after a time because your body slowly gets rid of these substances.
Sometimes surgery can improve or cure incontinence if it is caused by a problem such as a change in the position of the bladder or blockage due to an enlarged prostate. Common surgery for stress incontinence involves pulling the bladder up and securing it. When stress incontinence is serious, the surgeon may use a wide sling. This holds up the bladder and narrows the urethra to prevent leakage.