Tips to Manage Urinary Incontinence
Incontinence is a challenging condition that affects many older people. If you’ve secretly been hiding your incontinence and don’t know exactly how to manage it, rest assured that there’s help available for you.
Incontinence happens when you have accidental leakage of urine and/ or faeces. It affects both men and women and unfortunately, it’s more common among the ageing population. It’s especially more prevalent among people who have other chronic health conditions.
When Should you go to the Doctor for Incontinence?
If you’re having difficulty passing urine or you’re urinating more frequently, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor. There could be an underlying cause that requires treatment, such as undiagnosed Diabetes or a Urinary Tract Infection. Also, if you’ve lost urine control or you have urgency to pass urine, a visit to the doctor is really important. In fact, if anything is concerning you when urinating, speak with your G.P. as a first point of call.
Get a Continence Assessment!
If you’re living with urinary incontinence, let your G.P. know about it. It can feel like an embarrassing issue to discuss, but it’s not something that you should have to live with, without some support. Your doctor will arrange an assessment for you with a trained continence nurse who can help you to form a plan to meet your needs.
What will the Nurse Ask During an Assessment?
A continence nurse will look at your health history first and discuss your current incontinence issues. When discussing your incontinence issues, they’ll want to know how frequently you pass urine and how much you’re passing at one time. They’ll also want to know how it smells, the colour of it, and if it hurts to go to the toilet.
The nurse will ask to see a list of your current medications to ascertain if your regular medications are impacting on the amount/ frequency that you’re urinating. The nurse will want to know the volume of fluid you’re having each day and your general day to day diet too.
Next the nurse will ask you about how you’re currently managing your incontinence and how it’s impacting on your life. They’ll also want to know if you’re recognising the need to pass urine, or if it’s just spontaneously occurring.
Finding out Why You Have Incontinence?
There are various reasons that people suffer from urinary incontinence. Diagnostic tests and further investigations after a continence assessment will aid in the treatment and management of the urinary incontinence.
Diagnostic tests and investigations conducted can include a urine test. You will typically have an ultrasound of the bladder too. This is a relatively non-invasive procedure which involves a special, water based gel that’s applied to the lower abdominal area. A wand is then placed onto the lower abdomen (where the bladder is positioned). This wand will register the quantity of urine being stored in the bladder. You may also need to measure the amount of urine that you’re passing, and record the frequency of urination. All of this is to ascertain what’s occurring and devise an appropriate treatment plan accordingly.
Managing and Treating Incontinence
Incontinence isn’t an expected part of ageing and there are effective treatments available. These treatments might cure the incontinence, but in any case they’ll at least improve or manage the symptoms.
Treating urinary incontinence is dependent on the cause of the condition. Your doctor could recommend regular pelvic floor exercises, and a bladder training program.
In some cases your doctor may prescribe medications to aid in the management of incontinence, or they might alter your current medications if they’re impacting on the incontinence.
In some cases, managing incontinence will involve wearing incontinence pads. Rest assure that these pads aren’t like they used to be. Once upon a time they were big and bulky and didn’t absorb very well. Now there are improved products that cater to different levels and types of incontinence.
In some instances where there’s an underlying cause for the incontinence, you may need to see a Urologist who’ll recommend treatment, or sometimes even surgery. There’s almost always a way to treat and manage incontinence, which typically involves a multidisciplinary team of health professionals.
Where to Get Help for Incontinence
Firstly, if you have concerns regarding urinary continence, seek help and advice from your doctor, who’ll put you in contact with a continence nurse for an assessment.
If you’re feeling embarrassed or have a more immediate concern, you can contact the Continence helpline on 1800 330 066. The helpline is staffed with continence nurses who provide education and give advice regarding incontinence issues. Also, The Continence Foundation of Australia has a deal of really helpful information regarding the management of urinary incontinence.
Finally, there is government funding available for eligible people to help you manage the cost of incontinence management, through the Continence Aids Payment Scheme (CAPS). If you’re a recipient of home care support via a home care package, speak to your home care package manager about continence. You can arrange all types of home care support through a package if there’s funds available. This could be an assessment from a continence nurse, a continence management plan, and the provision of aids in some cases.