How Do I Address Mom's Incontinence?
"My mother recently was hospitalized for a hip problem, and since she’s returned home, I’ve noticed that she dribbles urine. I’m not sure I would say she’s incontinent, but she surely is leaking a bit.
She’s starting to soil chairs, not to mention her clothing. I wonder if I should be saying something to her or seeking some sort of intervention medically?
I certainly don’t want this to get worse or be an ongoing problem. I’m her son, so this is weirdly awkward for me. What do I do?"
I do not believe that incontinence is something you should ever ignore. There’s not a guarantee of a perfect solution, or a return to normalcy. However, there is a cause, and there can be effective responses. If there is a way to improve the situation, your mother should want to pursue it. I realize it’s not terrible right now, but it is time to explore.
Incontinence is most problematic in the elderly, though it can occur at any age. Actually, statistics say that one in two women have some urinary incontinence, meaning it’s quite common. That doesn’t make it okay or something to ignore. There is that possibility that your mother has had this problem for some time now, and the hospitalization exacerbated it.
The simple first step is to let her doctor know. It’s quite likely they’ll do a urine test to rule out a urinary tract infection. UTIs are common in the elderly and can cause all sorts of problems, from incontinence to confusion. After ruling that out, there are other tests and causes they will explore.
Aging alone is a factor. Weak pelvic floor muscles impact multiple organs in the abdomen, and as we age, so do those muscles. Less physical activity by an aging person weakens all muscles in the body. The sphincter muscles hold back urine, and for women, pregnancy and childbirth stretch and weaken these muscles. Constipation can place undue pressure on the bladder also.
There are multiple approaches to bladder control, and your mother’s healthcare professionals will explore several. It may be a bit uncomfortable and embarrassing to have the conversation and pursue a solution, but the reward can be well worth it. Please stay the course and help your mother solve this potentially isolating problem.
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