Many people assume that incontinence is a natural part of aging (just as many people think that dementia is a natural part of aging). But both are not an automatic response of the body and mind to getting older, though the two afflictions are related to one another.
Temporary incontinence can occur from a matter of issues. Some people who have been able to drink coffee, tea and alcohol without a problem their whole lives can become more sensitive to it as they age, and the effect of that sensitivity can be incontinence. Some medical conditions can create incontinence issues, such as urinary-tract infections (which can not only create incontinence in the elderly, but a host of confusing behavioral problems). To keep urinary-tract infections at bay, those that are susceptible should be sure to stay well-hydrated (though this sounds counter-intuitive to keeping continent, drinking too little water can irritate the bladder and cause incontinence). Constipation can be another reason for temporary incontinence.
Dementia can cause incontinence for a variety of reasons. Those with dementia who still get the “urge” to go can start on their way to the bathroom and get distracted or lost. Some people with later stage Alzheimer’s have damage to the parts of their brain that tells them that they need to go. Additionally, all the steps that it takes to use the restroom: finding it, removing clothing, staying long enough to urinate, can be overwhelming to someone with dementia.
Other reasons for incontinence can be weakened pelvic floor muscles, often caused by pregnancy and childbirth. Some medications can cause incontinence, which can oftentimes be easy to fix by switching types or changing the dosage. Being overweight or having an injury, such as a spinal cord injury, can cause incontinence.
While some of these reasons for incontinence cannot be cured, the incontinence can be managed. Perhaps it’s as easy as using a pull-up at night or having an underpad ready on a favorite chair. The number one reason that the elderly move into nursing homes is because their carer cannot manage their incontinence. But with communication with the caree’s doctor, supplies, and patience, the incontinent individual may be able to stay in place.