Carewell’s Essential Checklist for Urinary Incontinence Care
Urinary incontinence affects more than 25 million Americans. Even though the condition is relatively easy to manage, many people fail to seek treatment due to embarrassment or fear. To help, we created a free, handy checklist for urinary incontinence care that you can download with one simple click.
Unfortunately, without intervention, urinary incontinence increases the risk of more serious issues, including urinary tract infections, skin problems, and even depression.
The good news is that many people who experience urinary incontinence are able to keep their symptoms in check through a combination of healthy lifestyle changes, behavioral techniques, and high-quality incontinence products.
To make your job as a caregiver easier, we’ve developed this essential checklist for urinary incontinence care.
Determine the type of incontinence your loved one has
Before you can provide adequate urinary incontinence care, you need to determine the type of incontinence you’re dealing with. There are several types of urinary incontinence, including:
Stress incontinence causes involuntary leakage due to pressure on the bladder. Common causes of stress incontinence include laughing, coughing, sneezing, or lifting something heavy.
Urge incontinence is characterized by a sudden, intense urge to urinate, followed by an involuntary void. Sometimes, urge incontinence occurs due to an infection; other times, it points to an underlying health problem like diabetes.
Overflow incontinence occurs when the bladder doesn’t empty completely. This causes the involuntary release of urine throughout the day, usually in small dribbles.
Functional incontinence makes it difficult to reach the bathroom on time. Often, it occurs due to a physical impairment. For example, if your loved one has rheumatoid arthritis, they might find it difficult to unbutton and pull down their pants.
If your loved one experiences more than one type of urinary incontinence, it’s called mixed incontinence.
As a caregiver, it’s your job to identify any symptoms that seem out of the ordinary. If you notice changes in your loved one’s toilet habits, schedule an appointment with their primary care physician. Once they receive a diagnosis, you can take the necessary steps to keep them comfortable and dry.
Determine the level of urinary incontinence care required
Everyone who experiences urinary incontinence has different needs. If you care for someone who’s relatively mobile and independent, lifestyle changes and behavioral techniques may be enough to significantly reduce their symptoms and prevent accidents.
If your loved one is wheelchair-bound or bedridden, you likely won’t be able to prevent accidents from occurring. Instead, focus on ways to maintain their comfort and dignity. Items that are important to consider include routine diaper changes and cleanup, skincare, and position changes to prevent pressure ulcers.
Lifestyle changes for urinary incontinence care
Many cases of urinary incontinence respond well to lifestyle changes. If your loved one is mobile, independent, and in relatively good health, a few minor adjustments to their daily routine can make all the difference.
1) Avoid foods and beverages that irritate the bladder
The natural aging process affects all parts of the body, including the urinary system. Over the years, the muscles and nerves around the bladder weaken, making urinary incontinence all the more likely.
Consuming certain foods and beverages increases the risk of unexpected voids. As a general rule, encourage your loved one to avoid coffee, tea, and soda; alcohol; spicy foods; citrus; and chocolate.
2) Maintain a healthy weight
People who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience stress incontinence or urinary voids that occur as a result of undue pressure. Losing weight isn’t always easy, but shedding even 5-10 pounds can significantly reduce the amount of pressure on the bladder, limiting the frequency of accidents.
3) Familiarize yourself with medications and their associated side effects
Many of the medications used to treat common conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression increase the risk of urinary incontinence. That’s especially true If your loved one takes diuretics, alpha-blockers, antidepressants, or sleeping pills. If you’re concerned about any of the medications your loved one takes, make an appointment to speak with their primary care physician.
Behavioral Techniques for urinary incontinence care
Behavioral techniques are daily practices that can improve your loved one’s bladder control and overall functioning. Some of the most common behavioral techniques used to manage urinary incontinence include:
1) Bladder training
Bladder training tries to lengthen the amount of time between trips to the toilet. When your loved one experiences the urge to urinate, encourage them to hold off for at least 10 minutes. As their pelvic muscles get stronger, they may be able to extend the time between bathroom breaks by two or three hours.
2) Kegel exercises
Kegel exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor, a group of soft tissues that support the bladder, rectum, and small intestine. The better the condition of your loved one’s pelvic floor, the less likely they are to experience involuntary voids.
3) Scheduled toilet trips
The urge to urinate can strike at any time. Scheduling toilet trips every two to four hours can reduce the risk of a surprise, ensuring your loved one stays clean and dry.
4) Scheduled fluid intake
The beverages someone drinks take between two and three hours to reach the bladder. Encourage your loved one to stay hydrated throughout the day, but keep them from drinking anything at least two hours before bed.
If your loved one wants to drink something while they’re out and about, let them do so, but keep an eye out for public bathrooms. Smartphone apps like Flush and Sit or Squat make it easy to find one in an emergency.
Necessary products for urinary incontinence care
Now, let’s look at some of the products necessary to provide a loved one with urinary incontinence care:
1) Adult diapers. There are three types of adult diapers—pull-ups, reusable diapers, and adult briefs.
Pull-ups look and feel like traditional underwear. They’re made of cloth-like materials and fit discreetly under clothing.
Reusable diapers are made of cloth but tend to be more absorbent than pull-ups. They can be washed and dried with other clothing, making them both cost-effective and eco-friendly.
Adult briefs hug the abdomen, rear, and crotch. They have flexible tabs that provide a comfortable fit and a thick, absorbent core that collects liquid and eliminates unpleasant odors.
2) Underpads (Chux). Underpads, or “chux,” are sheet-like pieces of fabric that have an absorbent core and waterproof backing. They provide an extra layer of protection for furniture and bedding exposed to bodily fluids like urine, fecal matter, or wound drainage. Most underpads hold up to 350 pounds, which makes them ideal for repositioning bedridden or bariatric patients.
3) Booster pads. Booster pads provide an extra layer of absorbency for incontinence products like pull-ups or adult briefs. They feature a flow-through design and an absorbent core capable of containing urine or bowel incontinence. Booster pads are excellent for travel and other on-the-go applications because they’re convenient and significantly extend wear time.
4) Catheters. Catheters are hollow tubes made of plastic, rubber, or silicone that help drain urine from the bladder. They prevent waste from building up in the renal system, reducing the risk of urinary tract infections and kidney failure.
5) Wipes. The gases that urine and fecal matter emit increase the risk of diaper rashes, irritated skin, and lesions. Disposable wipes make cleanups quick and easy. Adult wipes, in particular, are ideal for diaper changes. Many even contain moisturizing ingredients like aloe and lotion to protect the skin.
6) Skin ointments. Many adults with urinary incontinence also experience diaper rashes and yeast infections. Ointments like Calmoseptine or McKesson Skin Protectant can relieve the discomfort associated with chafing, reduce the risk of bacterial and fungal infections, and create a protective skin barrier.
7) Laundry essentials. If you choose to use reusable incontinence products, you’ll need to do laundry every few days. Most modern detergents are capable of eliminating odors caused by urine and fecal matter, but it doesn’t hurt to incorporate baking soda and white vinegar as well. Baking soda increases the strength of your laundry detergent, while vinegar removes excess soap from clothing, reducing the risk of rashes and irritation.
Life hacks for urinary incontinence care
Caring for someone with urinary incontinence presents unique challenges, but these life hacks can help:
Accidents will happen.
Accidents are a perfectly normal side effect of urinary incontinence. It’s much better for your loved one to stay hydrated than it is to try to avoid an accident, especially during the summer months. Pack an incontinence bag everywhere you go that includes items necessary for cleanup, including diapers or pull-ups, wipes, and skincare items.
Stay positive and show your support.
Urinary incontinence affects Americans of all ages and genders. Even so, many people who experience it feel embarrassed or ashamed. Try to be as understanding and accepting as possible. Let your loved one know you’re there for them and will do whatever it takes to keep them comfortable, clean, and dry.
You may need to try several different products.
Everyone who experiences urinary incontinence has different needs, so it may take some trial and error to find the right products. If you have questions or need assistance, contact our friendly Care Team by calling (855) 855-1666 or sending a message to email@example.com.
Chad Birt is a freelance B2B and B2C medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.