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Urinary incontinence, the involuntary loss of urine, affects over 50 million people in India. In most cases, incontinence is caused by issues with bladder control; but for functional incontinence, it’s different. 

When it comes to functional incontinence – one of the four major types of urinary incontinence – the loss of urine is the result of the inability to get to the toilet and using the toilet when the need arises on time.          

Effective Strategies for Managing Functional Incontinence in Older Adults


Causes of functional incontinence 

Functional incontinence can occur because of various underlying causes that can prevent a person from getting to the restroom quickly or using it. These causes may include:

  • Neurological conditions, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

  • Poor eyesight.

  • Mental illness.

  • Impaired mobility due to injuries, back pain, arthritis, etc.

  • Medications, such as diuretics or sedatives.

  • Physical barriers or obstacles in the environment.

As you get older, the muscles in your bladder and the muscles that support your bladder lose some of their strength. With ageing of the bladder muscles, the bladder’s capacity to hold urine may also decrease; therefore, increasing the chances of experiencing urinary incontinence. In addition, the causes mentioned above further heighten the risk of incontinence in older adults. 

Managing functional incontinence in older adults 

Managing functional incontinence in older adults needs a multifaceted approach that focuses on addressing both the medical and environmental issues that are causing functional incontinence. Here are six things – from using a toilet schedule to training your bladder – that can help manage functional incontinence: 

1. Scheduled toileting

This involves making and following a schedule for bathroom trips – usually every two hours. By making regular trips to the bathroom at your own pace, you reduce the risk of having to go in a hurry when the urge strikes. Scheduled voiding can also be helpful for dementia patients, who may not recognize that they need to use the bathroom. 

If you or your loved one experience incontinence episodes even with the two hours between bathroom trips, reduce the time between bathroom trips accordingly.

2. Environmental modifications

The goal is to make the bathroom easily accessible for the person suffering with incontinence. For instance:

  • Removing any obstacles or tripping hazards along the path to the bathroom, such as rugs and cables. 

  • Installing grab bars near the toilet and in the shower area to provide support and stability. 

  • Using raised toilet seats, which can be easily installed on top of existing toilet seats.

  • Installing toilet safety frames for additional support and stability. 

  • Ensuring that the bathroom floor has non-slip surfaces and is well-lit to reduce the risk of falls. 

3. Bladder training

If you’ve already established a toileting schedule, gradually increase the time interval between bathroom visits. For example, if you initially started at two-hour intervals, gradually increase it to two hour and 15 minutes, then two hour and 30 minutes, and so on. 

And when you do feel the urge to urinate before the scheduled time, try to delay going to the bathroom by a few minutes. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or distraction techniques, to help manage the urge. Once you’ve answered nature’s call, wait a few minutes, and then attempt urinating again to make sure the bladder is completely empty.

The goal of these trainings is to increase bladder capacity, improve bladder control, reduce frequency and urgency of urination, and to establish a more regular bladder emptying pattern. The success of these trainings varies from person to person, but they’re definitely worth a try. 

4. Medications

In some cases, doctors might prescribe medications to relax overactive bladder muscles, increase bladder capacity, or reduce urinary frequency to help in functional incontinence management. 

On the other hand, doctors might also do a medication review of the medications you’re on to pick out and replace or modify the dosage of any medication that might be worsening your condition. Certain medications can have side effects that affect bladder function or increase urine production, leading to worsened incontinence symptoms. 

5. Lifestyle changes 

Small, humble decisions lay the foundation of every monumental success story. Little lifestyle changes, you might be tempted to ignore, can end up being the biggest factor in your battle against incontinence. Here are some important lifestyle changes: 

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can put pressure on the bladder, leading to increased urinary urgency and leakage. Try to maintain a healthy wight through a balanced diet and regular physical activity. 

  • Dietary modifications: Certain foods and beverages can irritate the bladder or increase urinary frequency or urgency. Some potential triggers include chocolate, tomatoes and tomato-based products, citric acid fruits such as lemons and oranges, alcoholic drinks, carbonated drinks, spicy foods, and sugary foods. Include fibre-rich foods to promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation. While you’re at it, stop smoking as it can also worsen incontinence symptoms. 

  • Adequate fluid intake: While it may seem contradictory, keeping yourself well hydrated is crucial for bladder health and managing bladder incontinence. Balance fluid intake throughout the day to prevent dehydration and avoid excessive water intake close to bedtime. 

6. Absorbent products

The best solution to help incontinence sufferers feel more confident and comfortable is to manage with absorbent products. Even if they don’t make it to the restroom, they can still be confident that no embarrassing accident would happen. This sense of confidence allows them to handle the urgency to urinate in a calm and collected manner, which can prevent a lot of falls and accidents that occur from older adults rushing to the restroom. 

And when it comes to adult diapers for old age and young individuals alike, Friends can be just the diaper you’re looking for! Friends Adult Diapers: 

  • Provide over 16 hours of dry goodness depending on the variant. 

  • Equipped with ADL (acquisition distribution layer) for quick and even absorption to prevent any pooling or spillage. 

  • Prevent rashes and the growth of harmful bacteria with the help of anti-bacterial core. 

  • Allow free-airflow to keep your skin fresh and healthy, thanks to the cloth-like material. 

  • Have standing leak guards for additional protection again trickles and spills. 

  • Lock urine smell so that you can go about your day worry free. It also has a wetness indicator to let you know the perfect time for switching into a new diaper.

  • Are unisex, so whether you’re looking for adult diapers for men or adult diapers for women, Friends is for you. We also have the thinnest adult diaper pants in India: Friends UltraThinz! Available in grey colour for men and peach colour for women! 

But Adult Diapers is not all that we have for you. When we say, ‘we understand you,’ we truly mean it! Friends also has disposable underpads, designed to protect furniture and surfaces from leaks, spills, or stains, ensuring cleanliness and hygiene. Moreover, these underpads can also be used to provide a safe and hygienic surface for diaper changes whenever you need it. 

We also make bed bath towels, designed to provide the freshness of a bath through the convenience of wet wipes. 

That’s it from us! Fortunately, functional is one of the easier types of urinary incontinence to manage. With the help of these tips and strategies, make the burdens of functional incontinence a thing of the past. 

FAQs on Functional Incontinence:

1. What is functional incontinence in older adults? 

Functional incontinence, meaning, a type of urinary incontinence in which a person has trouble reaching the toilet on time due to physical or cognitive impairments. It is not directly caused by problems with the urinary system but rather by external factors that hinder the individual's ability to reach the restroom in a timely manner.

2. What are the symptoms of functional incontinence in older adults? 

The primary symptom of functional incontinence is the inability to reach the restroom in time despite having normal bladder control. Signs may include frequent episodes of unintentional urine leakage, urgency to urinate, or instances of accidents due to being unable to make it to the bathroom on time.

3. How is functional incontinence diagnosed in older adults?

Diagnosing functional incontinence involves a comprehensive assessment by healthcare professionals. They will evaluate the person’s medical history, conduct a physical examination, and may perform additional tests to rule out underlying medical conditions that could contribute to incontinence. The assessment may also involve testing the person's mobility, cognitive function, and ability to perform activities of daily living.

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