Urinary incontinence

By: Sheila Kun RN, BA, BSN, MS

Many years ago, I was laughing at a colleague (a medical professor) when he said: “I was speaking at 5 continents until I became incontinent.” At first I thought he was joking until now, we are in the 7 UP categories – 70 and up. Urinary incontinence is not a topic commonly discussed. Therefore, I think this is a good time to talk about a normal phenomenon for seniors. I got the abstract below from the Mayo Clinic. They have an excellent medical education site.

Urinary incontinence — the loss of bladder control — is a common and often embarrassing problem. The severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that’s so sudden and strong you don’t get to a toilet in time.

Though it occurs more often as people get older, urinary incontinence isn’t an inevitable consequence of aging. If urinary incontinence affects your daily activities, don’t hesitate to see your doctor. For most people, simple lifestyle and dietary changes or medical care can treat symptoms of urinary incontinence.


Many people experience occasional, minor leaks of urine. Others may lose small to moderate amounts of urine more frequently.

Types of urinary incontinence include:

  • Stress incontinence.Urine leaks when you exert pressure on your bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy.
  • Urge incontinence.You have a sudden, intense urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. You may need to urinate often, including throughout the night. Urge incontinence may be caused by a minor condition, such as infection, or a more severe condition such as a neurological disorder or diabetes.
  • Overflow incontinence.You experience frequent or constant dribbling of urine due to a bladder that doesn’t empty completely.
  • Functional incontinence.A physical or mental impairment keeps you from making it to the toilet in time. For example, if you have severe arthritis, you may not be able to unbutton your pants quickly enough.
  • Mixed incontinence.You experience more than one type of urinary incontinence — most often this refers to a combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

When to see a doctor

You may feel uncomfortable discussing incontinence with your doctor. But if incontinence is frequent or is affecting your quality of life, it’s important to seek medical advice because urinary incontinence may:

  • Cause you to restrict your activities and limit your social interactions
  • Negatively impact your quality of life
  • Increase the risk of falls in older adults as they rush to the toilet
  • Indicate a more serious underlying condition

Sheila’s note: In my travels, I had seen people that needed “comfort stops” every 1-2 hours. Actually I am one of those that need to schedule my water intake with group travel. I usually pace my liquid intake and make sure I have a chance to empty my bladder within an hour prior to departure of any day trip. Then I hydrate myself 15 minutes before the next comfort stop. This way, I keep myself hydrated and don’t to have worry about urinary urgency. Louis always teases me with my global travels: “You have visited more restrooms in the world than the shopping malls.” – a true statement!

By the way, incontinent napkins are available at a low cost in the Dollar Tree stores.

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: Be prepared for the natural progression of this aging process.

Love to hear from you: kunlouis@gmail.com