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How to Deal With Incontinence in Older Adults

Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jun 10, 2021

How to Deal With Incontinence in Older Adults

Incontinence, or the inability to control your bowel and bladder functions, is a common problem with the elderly. This can not only be troublesome but can also cause a lot of embarrassment for people who do not know how to deal with elderly incontinence. Although common in the elderly, may signify other underlying diseases especially in men such as problems with the prostate, urinary tract infections, or cancer.

But before we talk about how to deal with elderly incontinence, we first need to talk about why it happens in the first place.

What is Elderly Incontinence?

Elderly incontinence is incontinence that happens as people grow older. It is actually a common occurrence for old people, but is not often talked about.

For the most part, a lot of people feel that elderly incontinence is a taboo subject, and people who have it tend to be embarrassed about it. This is the reason why some elderly folks refuse to ask for help when it comes to their incontinence.

This is why knowing how to deal with elderly incontinence is important, since it improves the quality of life of an elderly person. Also, it can save them from a lot of embarrassment.

But why is it that incontinence is common among the elderly?

Simple Ways to Boost Bladder Health

What Causes Elderly Incontinence?

There are a number of reasons why the elderly usually experience incontinence.

For the most part, as people grow older, their pelvic floor muscles start to get weaker. These muscles are the ones responsible for controlling a person’s urinary and bowel movements. Having weaker pelvic floor muscles makes it difficult for people to control their bladder and bowels, which leads to incontinence.

Nerve problems that result from chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease also contribute to incontinence.

Additionally, people in the latter stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease develop incontinence as a symptom. This condition is also noted in patients with neurological problems, spinal problems/ trauma, and those using specific medications.

All of these factors contribute to the elderly being more prone to incontinence compared to younger people. This is why it is important for the elderly, as well as their caretakers to know how to deal with elderly incontinence.

How to Deal With Elderly Incontinence

Here are some tips that can help with elderly incontinence:

Drink less water at night

Most of the time, accidents caused by incontinence happen during sleep. So the most straightforward way of preventing this from happening is to avoid drinking water right before bedtime.

Ideally, your last drink of the day should be an hour before you sleep. It would also help if you can go to the bathroom right before going to bed to make sure that your bladder is empty.

Try to lose weight

Being overweight can sometimes lead to the pelvic floor muscles getting weaker, which leads to incontinence. This is because the added weight contributes to more strain against the pelvic floor which weakens it. This phenomenon is also common among pregnant mothers.

In order to prevent this from happening, it would be a good idea to try and lose weight. Not only does losing weight help with incontinence, it also improves your overall health.

Quit smoking

Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of stress incontinence. Stress incontinence happens when urine leaks as a result of exercise, laughing, coughing, sneezing, or lifting heavy objects.

Quitting smoking also lowers a person’s risk of lung cancer, heart disease, as well as a host of other cardiovascular illnesses. So all in all, if you are a smoker, it would be a good idea to quit as soon as possible.

Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics. This means that they increase your urine production, and for people with incontinence, this is a big no-no.

If you suffer from incontinence, try to avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol. Instead, opt for drinking water or fresh fruit juice instead to get you rehydrated and energized.

Try to avoid straining when defecating

A lot of people tend to strain themselves when they are defecating. This might be due to having constipation, or they might just have gotten used to doing it.

However, too much straining can actually weaken your pelvic floor muscles, which can cause incontinence.

You can mitigate this by not straining when defecating, and eating a diet that is high in fiber in order to prevent constipation. This is an important and effective tip, especially when learning how to deal with elderly incontinence.

Practice timed voiding

Timed voiding is basically scheduling when you will go to the bathroom. This method helps with incontinence because it helps you gain better control of your bladder.

You can start timed voiding by urinating on a set schedule, and then gradually increasing the time in between your urinations as you get better at controlling your bladder.

This also helps prevent accidents from happening, so all in all, it’s a good thing to try out.

Kegel exercises

Lastly, a good tip on how to deal with elderly incontinence is to practice kegel exercises. Kegel exercises can be done by men and women.

Kegel exercises are a type of exercise that helps strengthen your pelvic floor. If you don’t know, your pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that you use when you try to stop urinating, or when you are trying to stop yourself from passing gas.

how to deal with elderly incontinence

To do kegel exercises, you just need to contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold it in that position for at least three seconds and then let go. Repeat this for at least three times to complete one set. Ideally you should do 10 repetitions of kegel exercises daily.

This should help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and prevent you from suffering from incontinence.

Key Takeaways

When it comes to issues regarding how to deal with elderly incontinence, it must be addressed with patience and understanding. Whether you are suffering from the condition or a loved one, it would be best to confront it without feeling embarrassed. Accidents happen and there are ways to help reduce the chances of incontinence in the future.

Learn more about Healthy Aging here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mia Dacumos, MD

Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jun 10, 2021

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