Incontinence: Not Just a Natural Part of Aging

December 27, 2011

aging parents

Do you have frequent, sudden urges to go to the bathroom? Do these urges constantly interrupt your daily activities?

For some women, the risk of public embarrassment from not making it to the bathroom in time keeps them from enjoying many activities with their family and friends.

“I’ll be right back, dear. I just need to visit the little girls room.” Grandma Carol disappeared with surprising rapidity, determinedly navigating the Saturday afternoon crowd at the grocery store as she headed towards the women’s room. I continued my search for the perfect grapefruit, and finding it, perused the shopping list to see what remained. Several minutes passed, and I began to feel a bit worried. Where had Grandma Carol gone? Had she gotten lost? I hadn’t strayed far from the area I had been in when she left, so she should have been able to find me. I headed toward the bathrooms.

I found her standing by the women’s room sinks, looking oddly abashed.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “I was just getting a little worried about you.”

She nodded. “I’m okay, but…this is SO embarrassing.” She flushed, and turned around slowly. I saw the large wet spot on the back of her pants, and my heart went out to her. My grandmother was always so stylish and ladylike, and I knew how horrifying this must be for her. It was an awkward moment for us both, and I wasn’t really sure how to handle it.

“I just couldn’t make it here in time.” She said sadly. “I don’t know why this is happening. Lately I’ve had about thirty seconds to get to the bathroom or I have an accident. This doesn’t happen much when I’m at home, but when I’m in a public place, especially if there’s a line…” She let her words trail off, but I could fill in the rest for myself. I put my arm around her shoulders.

The most important thing at that point was to get her home and changed, with the minimum of embarrassment. I gave her my jacket, which was far too large for her tiny frame, but at least covered her up, and then we left. When we got back, I asked if she had spoken to her doctor about the problem.

“I’ve thought about it, but I don’t know if he can do anything for a problem like this. Besides, I’m just so ashamed to tell him about it,” she confessed. “I don’t want to wear a diaper, either,” she added determinedly.

Nevertheless, I persuaded her to make an appointment with Dr. Robinson. The next Thursday, Grandma Carol came out of the doctor’s office looking relieved. The doctor signaled to me, and I followed him into the hall.

“She has a urinary tract infection, which is causing the incontinence. People often think that incontinence is a normal part of aging, but most of the time it’s actually a side effect of a medication or a urinary tract infection. ” he explained.

“It’s not serious, and the medication I prescribed should clear up the infection shortly. Until then, however, make sure that she wears pants or skirts with elastic waists, so that time is less of an issue. I told her that she should also keep a diary with the times of her visits to the bathroom. If she can pick out a pattern in the times of the day that she needs to go, she can schedule her visits so that there will be less opportunity for accidents. She should also watch her fluid intake during the hours before she goes to bed, and avoid coffee, colas, and alcohol in general. If she does that, I think she’ll see fewer incidents. If she does need incontinence products over the next few weeks, she should know that the new ones on the market are much less bulky and obvious than the old ones. No one will ever know that it’s an issue.”

I thanked him, and we headed home. In a couple of weeks, Grandma Carol’s problem cleared up completely, and she no longer had to worry about embarrassing incidents!

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Chris Lerch, Owner Home Instead Senior Care Houston

We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior that could benefit from our vast array of home care services in Houston, please call us at 832 379-4700 or email us. We accept most long term care insurance as payment and have a full time staff supervising more than 100 quality-trained home care personnel covering the Houston, Texas area.

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Chris M. Lerch, Owner

We hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or if you know of a senior that could benefit from our vast array of home care services in Houston, please call us at 832 379-4700 or email us. We accept most long term care insurance as payment and have a full time staff supervising more than 100 quality-trained home care personnel covering the Houston, Texas area.

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