June 17, 2022
Reading Time 4 min.

Incontinence in the Elderly: Types and Prevalence

Is incontinence in the elderly a usual thing?

Most people would assume that, like memory loss, incontinence is common in seniors. 

It can be embarrassing for the elder, and inconvenient for the caregiver. 

One thing is for certain. Incontinence in the elderly isn’t something your loved one should just accept as normal. 

So today, we will be discussing types and prevalence of incontinence in the elderly.

Let’s get started.

What is incontinence?

Incontinence is a condition where a person loses bladder control and causes occasional leaking of urine. 

It can range from small leaks when coughing or sneezing. Or it can also be an uncontrollable urge to pee at any time. 

Urinary incontinence usually occurs as people get older. But to set the record straight, it is not an inevitable consequence of aging. 

Different types of incontinence can affect a person at any age. Here are some of them. 

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence happens when pressure or stress is applied to your bladder. 

Urine leaks when coughing or sneezing, laughing, exercising, or lifting heavy items. 

Urge incontinence 

Urge incontinence is often caused by infections, severe conditions like a neurological disorder, or diabetes. 

This type of incontinence feels like a sudden, intense urge to urinate, especially through the night. 

Some experience the need to go more than eight times a day or night. Others get triggered even when hearing or touching running water. 

There’s also the dry form of urge incontinence, where you feel the urge to go even if the bladder is empty. 

Overflow incontinence 

Overflow incontinence is a more common condition in men especially those with benign prostatic hyperplasia.

It happens when the person can’t empty the bladder. This leads to an overflow and can leak out any time of the day. 

Leftover urine in the bladder can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Thus causing the person to become more prone to repeated urinary tract infections. 

Functional incontinence 

Many factors may affect a person suffering from functional incontinence. But the main identifier of this type is the ability of the person to reach the toilet when the need arises. 

Some people who experience this suffer from musculoskeletal or neurological problems such as arthritis or Parkison’s Disease

Medications such as sedatives can also cause functional incontinence. And for seniors, it can be as simple as not getting to the toilet on time. 

Mixed incontinence 

Mixed incontinence is a combination of stress and urge incontinence. 

It is mainly caused by weakened muscles that support and control the bladder. Increased pressure on the bladder can also cause leakages to happen. 

Pregnant women or those who recently gave birth experience this most often. 

It can also happen to people who have gone through surgery. Medical conditions like thyroid issues and certain diuretics can also cause mixed incontinence. 

What causes incontinence in the elderly

causes of incontinence in the elderly

This brings us back to the question, what makes the elderly more prone to incontinence? And is it something that you should expect when caring for the elderly? 

Aging increases the risk for incontinence. The bladder’s ability and capacity are reduced, thus the uncontrollable leakage. 

Elderly postmenopausal women also lose volume and tone in their pelvic muscles. Ligaments and connective tissues that support the pelvic area also gradually fail. 

Weakened pelvic floor and muscles also increase the risk of prolapse and eventually cause incontinence. 

Dementia patients are often diagnosed with a type of incontinence. Some even experience a complete lack of control for both bladder and bowel movements. 

Because of any of these many factors, patients are at an increased risk of falls and fractures. Rushing to the commode or an accident that results in a wet floor can significantly increase the danger at home.

They also have higher risks for ulcers and urinary tract infections. 

How common is incontinence in the elderly

CDC reports that 51% of people aged 65 and older reported problems with incontinence. 44% of those had bladder incontinence. While 17% are said to suffer from bowel incontinence. 

Women make up about 50% of that number, while 25% are men. It is also said that women receiving home health care were 1.7 times more likely to have bladder incontinence compared to men. 

Incontinence also has its social and financial implications. It can even cause a huge shift in a person’s life. 

Some conditions are so severe that they can lead to social anxiety and even withdrawal. Others even experience depression and loss of independent functions.

These factors also play a role in increased risk of decreasing cognition and worsening dementia.

In fact, 6-10% of nursing home admissions are due to urinary incontinence. 

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, incontinence is common and becoming more likely as our loved ones age.

Click here for the best ways to manage incontinence and warning signs to look out for.

If you liked the shorter post this week let me know in the comments below.

That's all for today.

Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!


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