iAge

Changing how we see aging

No Pissing Joke

How problems with urination can lead to a nursing home

The 2003 Sleep in America Poll by the National Sleep Foundation—the latest data we have for older adults—reports that two out of three people (65 percent) ages of 55 and 84 reported having to wake up during the night to go to the bathroom to urinate at least a few nights per week. This condition is called nocturia and is often normal part of getting older. It can also be an indication of other medical conditions including infection, a tumor of the bladder or prostate, a condition called bladder prolapse, or disorders affecting sphincter control. It is also common in people with heart failure, liver failure, poorly controlled diabetes and some medications which are also associated with nocturia. But usually, as we get older, the chemical regulation in our body changes making us less able to retain fluid, and therefore producing more urine. That and the fact that our bladder shrinks as we age creates the need to empty during the night.

This is of course preferable to incontinence.

Urinary incontinence drastically reduces your quality of life and is likely to contribute to an earlier nursing home placement. Unfortunately, urinary incontinence—where urine escapes unexpectedly—is a common problem among older women and men.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Older women are twice more likely to experience urinary incontinence than older men and the reasons are different for men and women. Pregnancy and childbirth (as well as heavy exercise, such as triathlon training), menopause, and the anatomical structure urinary tract account for this difference. Whereas both women and men can become incontinent from injury to nerves, birth defects, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other physical problems

Although it is more common the older a person becomes, urine incontinence is not inevitable with age, it is a medical problem. There are behavioral and physical exercises that can help including medications, biofeedback, stimulation of nerves to the bladder (neuromodulation) vaginal mechanic devices (pessary) and finally surgery (including catheters), are all options for specific type of incontinence.

For men other then the obvious differences—pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, and anatomical differences—urinary incontinence can be caused by nerve damage and/or by prostate problems. The prostate gland, which sits behind the pipe (urethra) that releases urine, commonly becomes enlarged with age. As the prostate enlarges, it may squeeze the urethra restricting the flow. Up to 90 percent in men in their seventies and eighties have some restricting flow problems.

In addition, one of the causes of urinary incontinence is poorly prescribed medications. Four main types of medication can cause urine incontinence. These are medications prescribed for high blood pressure, depression and sleeping problems. The complication is that these might be the same medications that are used to address urine incontinence in the first place. Unless you face up to it, urine incontinence only gets worse. There are multiple avenues to explore in treatment, but the only first step is to discuss this with your primary care provider. The solution might be found after exploring many avenues but keeping it a secret is not an option.

 © USA Copyrighted 2014 Mario D. Garrett

Mario Garrett, Ph.D., is a professor at the school of social work, San Diego State University.

more...

Subscribe to iAge

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?