Why incontinence happens
Incontinence affects women and men of all ages; however, elderly people are statistically more likely to be affected by bladder incontinence. This could be for various reasons, including mobility issues, memory problems or chronic health issues such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, dementia or multiple sclerosis.
Knowing that you are not alone is the most important thing to remember when caring for someone suffering from incontinence. Seeking professional medical advice in the early stages of incontinence is the best way to manage the condition.
There are NHS continence clinics located across the UK, usually within hospitals or community health centres. The best way to locate your nearest clinic is to call your local hospital or ring the Bladder and Bowel Foundation helpline on 0800 031 5412.
Each clinic has a specialist team, providing support and medical advice for those with bladder incontinence. A GP referral isn’t necessary; simply call to arrange an incontinence assessment for the person you are looking after. When they come in with you, a continence advisor will assess their symptoms and discuss treatment options.
Preparing for a continence assessment
As there are several types of incontinence, there is not a simple cure for everyone.
A GP can help identify the type of incontinence and the cause of the problem, and recommend the best treatment or management method for the person you are caring for.
There is a range of management options available for those with incontinence. The recommendation will largely depend on the type of condition your loved one has.
To help with an accurate assessment, provide as much information as possible during the first consultation. Here are some ways to get the most out of the appointment.
Keep a bladder diary
For seven days before the visit, keep a bladder diary for the person in your care. Note any patterns of:
- The time of day they usually experience incontinence
- Any behaviours or activities which precede incontinence
- Where loss of bladder control happens most often – for example, as you reach the toilet, in a bedroom or stairway, or away from home
- How much liquid they consume each day
Track their dietary triggers
Certain diets, including those high in spicy and acidic foods, can worsen the symptoms of incontinence. Similarly, diuretics – found in caffeine-rich drinks – can encourage the production of urine.
Assess whether the diet of the person you’re caring for may contain ‘trigger’ foods or drinks. Additionally, make a note of any significant changes to their diet that could be making things worse.
Some medications cause incontinence as a side-effect. Attend your appointment prepared with a list of any medication the person you’re caring for is taking, so the doctor can determine if this is a possible cause of incontinence.
Tips to manage incontinence
There are some things you can do to manage the condition for the person you are caring for, including:
- Choosing the right incontinence products to keep clothing or bedding dry.
- Contacting a doctor if the occurrence is sudden, as this may be a sign of an infection.
- Ensuring the person drinks plenty of water spread evenly throughout the day.