Aging and Incontinence: Dispelling the Myth

Jasmine Schmidt Health Guide September 28, 2007
  • In honor of my birthday (I haven't received your gift yet, but I assume it's in the mail), I thought I'd devote some time to dispelling the myth that incontinence is an inevitable part of aging. While it's true that incontinence does happen more often to older adults, it is certainly not a "normal" part of the aging process. It's not normal because incontinence isn't normal, nor should it be expected, at any age past the point of potty training with a toddler.

     

    In every case, incontinence - whether urinary or fecal - is the result of something that isn't working correctly in the body. The leakage could be the result of a tear in the sphincter due to years of physical stress caused by a chronic cough, prolapse following childbirth (when the bladder changes position), weakened pelvic floor muscles due to obesity or coughing due to smoking, or the bladder's intolerance of certain foods and drinks such as chocolate, caffeine, and citric acid.

     

    When we believe something is an inevitable or necessary part of life, we tend to shrug our shoulders while muttering "Well, what can you do about it?" Well, the truth is that you can do a lot about it, at least in the case if incontinence, because it isn't inevitable, necessary, or normal. In fact, many people go to their grave never having experienced a misbehaving bladder. If you're finding yourself, or your loved one, leaking more and more often, it's time to see a doctor and get a medical opinion as to what is causing the incontinence. In some cases, the cause can't or won't be identified, and that's ok too, because it's almost more important to rule out certain potential causes such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or spinal cord damage.

     

    Once it is determined that there is no serious underlying cause, the important next step is in trying to find a solution that you can live with, and live happily and actively! In some cases a medication might help, and in others a surgery can be performed. Older adults often assume that they're "too old" for surgery, but many doctors have told me that they have great success performing surgery on healthy older adults, who then go on to live a very full - and dry - life! You'll never know what your options are until you ask.

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