Incontinence and caregiving

One of the biggest issues that confront caregivers is their loved ones' incontinence. There are two types of incontinence - urinary, which is the loss of bladder control, and bowel, which is the involuntary loss of fecal matter.

There are many causes of incontinence - surgeries, infections, the aging process, prescription drugs such as narcotics, or Alzheimer's disease, to name a few. The National Association for Continence has an informative Web site that gives caregivers and care receivers tips on how to prevent or cope with incontinence. Here are a few:

• Research appropriate undergarments for care receivers. If the incontinence problem is minor and involves some urine leakage, feminine protection products may be adequate. If the incontinence problem is more severe, there are several brands of adult undergarments that are relatively discreet and effective. In addition, it may be advisable to purchase disposable mattress pads for nighttime.

• Plan on frequent trips to the rest room, especially if their intake of fluids is high.

• Some cognitively impaired folks are unable to verbally express their need to void their bladders so caregivers will need to watch for signs in their body language (agitation, fidgeting, pulling at clothing) that communicate the need to go.

• Develop a routine with the care receiver. Help them to the rest room upon awakening, during the day, and immediately before bedtime.

• Practice patience. If an accident occurs, this may be very embarrassing to the care receiver. Remember that they are not doing this on purpose and getting angry will only make them feel worse.

• Limit fluid intake before bedtime or naptime.

• Have nightlights available in hallways and bathrooms so care receivers can easily find their way in the darkness. If they awaken to a too-dark environment they may be too anxious to attempt to reach the bathroom in time.

For more information, contact the Behavioral Health Services North Caregiver Resource Center.

The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh or call them at 565-4620. Information is also periodically provided by the Behavioral Health Services North Caregiver Resource Center. They may be reached at 565-4543 or 565-4625.

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