Managing Incontinence in the Senior Living Setting

Incontinence affects more than half of the elderly who are homebound or in long-term care, according to the National Association For Continence. Because this condition affects residents at all types of senior living and assisted living facilities, finding best practices for managing urinary and bowel incontinence is a concern for staff. Here is information you can share with residents in any care environment to better recognize types of incontinence and choose products based on gender, activity level and absorbency needs.

Incontinence Types and Tips

Stress: The most common type among women, stress incontinence can cause urine leakage while exercising, coughing, sneezing, laughing or lifting, due to pressure on the bladder, weakened muscles and/or damaged nerves.

Tip: Women with stress incontinence may lead active lives, so look for products made to fit a woman’s body comfortably, from a pad for light leakage to pull-on underwear.

Urge: Common among the elderly, urge incontinence is characterized by a sudden urge to urinate, with little bladder control. Marked by a need to urinate more than seven times daily or twice nightly, it may be caused by an overactive bladder or a result of injury, illness or surgery.

Tip: Because the urge to urinate is sudden and frequent, an individual may prefer pull-on underwear that can be pulled up and down like regular underwear.

Overflow: Individuals with overflow incontinence can’t completely empty their bladders, resulting in frequent urination, constant leakage or both. Causes include a blocked urethra and weakened bladder muscles due to nerve damage.

Tip: For those experiencing constant leakage, look for products in heavy or overnight absorbency and made of skin-friendly, odor-fighting materials. For extra protection, booster pads can be worn with other incontinence products. Men recovering from prostate surgery may choose Guards for Men, which are worn inside underwear.

Functional: Common among the elderly with arthritis, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, those with functional incontinence are unable to control their bladders before reaching a bathroom because of limitations in moving, thinking or communicating.

Tip: For complete loss of bladder or bowel control, choose briefs/adult diapers, for maximum protection and tape tabs for easy changing. Separate underpads can help protect surfaces like beds and chairs.

Mixed: Women commonly experience a mix of both stress and urge incontinence. The causes of each type may or may not be related.

Tip: Look for products made to fit a woman’s anatomy, which may include oval-cut leg openings and absorbency where it’s most needed.

Anatomic or developmental abnormalities: An abnormal passage between the bladder and another structure or a leak in the urinary system can cause incontinence. Also, patients who have nervous system damage may have a neurogenic bladder, in which case the bladder is underactive or overactive.

Tip: Depending on the level of incontinence, these wearers may choose from pull-on or adjustable underwear, pads or guards, or briefs/adult diapers.

Temporary: Incontinence may be a temporary result of severe constipation, infections, or certain medications, such as diuretics, muscle relaxants, narcotics, antidepressants, antipsychotics or calcium channel blockers.

Tip: Choose pads for light leakage, undergarments for medium absorbency, or briefs/adult diapers with or without booster pads for maximum protection.

Resource for Facilities, Residents
The CareGiver Partnership provides information, tools, and assistance for care facility staff and residents, to help them manage incontinence with dignity and ease.

For a supply of resident informational brochures, please call The CareGiver Partnership at 1-800-985-1353. They offer more than 500 incontinence products, free door step delivery ($50+) and personalized advice from product specialists.