Achieving Incontinence Control in Your Golden YearsSkip to content

How to Manage Incontinence as You Age

Published: Dec 29, 2022. Last Updated: Jan 8, 2023.

Incontinence is a common problem among the elderly population. This can range from occasional leakage when coughing or sneezing to frequent and complete loss of bladder control. It's important to know that you don't have to settle for embarrassment and a diminished quality of life. With proper treatment and attention, you can manage the condition and remain independent while living your life with complete fulfillment.

Causes of Incontinence in The Elderly

Understanding the causes of incontinence in the elderly is important in finding appropriate treatment and management strategies. Incontinence in the elderly can be caused by a variety of factors. These include:

Physical Changes

As humans age, muscles and tissues naturally become weaker and less elastic. This can cause problems with bladder and bowel control. The prostate gland in men and the pelvic muscles in women can also become weaker with age, making them more prone to urinary incontinence. Additionally, many elderly people experience arthritis or other conditions that limit their mobility, making it difficult for them to reach a bathroom in time.

Medication Side Effects

Certain types of medications can also increase the risk of incontinence in seniors. These include drugs used to treat high blood pressure, heart problems, and depression. Other drugs that can trigger incontinence include anticholinergics, decongestants, diuretics, sedatives, and muscle relaxants.

Chronic Conditions

Certain chronic health conditions can also contribute to incontinence in the elderly. These include stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes. That's why seniors need to be routinely monitored by their healthcare provider.

Lifestyle Habits

Finally, lifestyle habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, when combined with the physical changes associated with aging, can significantly increase the risk of developing incontinence.

Types of Incontinence in The Elderly

Understanding the different types of incontinence can help individuals seeking treatment and care to get a better grasp on the root cause of their condition and find the most effective treatment options. Here is a detailed look at the different types of incontinence:

Urge incontinence

This type of incontinence is characterized by a sudden, strong urge to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine. It is often caused by an overactive bladder muscle that contracts too frequently, or by bladder inflammation or infection.

Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence occurs when physical movement or activity puts pressure on the bladder, causing a loss of urine. This type of incontinence is often caused by weak pelvic floor muscles, which can be a result of pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, or aging.

Overflow incontinence

Overflow incontinence is characterized by frequent, small amounts of urine leakage due to an inability to fully empty the bladder. It can be caused by an obstruction in the urinary tract, such as a kidney stone or prostate enlargement, or by nerve damage that affects the bladder muscles.

Functional incontinence

Functional incontinence refers to a situation where an individual has the physical ability to control their bladder or bowel movements, but is unable to access the bathroom or lacks the cognitive or physical ability to do so. This type of incontinence is often seen in individuals with mobility issues or cognitive impairments.

Treatment Options for Incontinence in The Elderly

Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options available to help manage and treat incontinence. Here are some of the most effective ways to address this issue:

Behavioral therapies

There are several behavioral therapies that can be helpful in managing incontinence. These include bladder training, pelvic floor muscle exercises, and lifestyle changes such as reducing fluid intake or avoiding certain foods or drinks that can irritate the bladder.


There are several medications that can help treat incontinence, including anticholinergics, which help relax the bladder muscles, and tricyclic antidepressants, which can help improve muscle control in the bladder and sphincter.

Assistive devices

There are a variety of assistive devices available to help manage incontinence, including absorbent pads, adult diapers, and urinary catheters. These devices can be particularly helpful for individuals who are unable to get to the bathroom in a timely manner.


In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat incontinence. Options include bladder sling procedures, which help support the bladder and urethra, and nerve stimulation procedures, which use electrical impulses to help improve muscle control in the bladder and sphincter.

It's important to note that the most effective treatment for incontinence will depend on the individual and the underlying cause of their incontinence. It is important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of treatment.

Incontinence Care at Home

Incontinence care at home is an important aspect of managing this common problem in the elderly population. While incontinence can be caused by a variety of factors, it is a treatable condition that can be managed with the right approach. Below are several ways that can help seniors manage incontinence at home:

  1. Stay hydrated: Proper hydration is important for maintaining a healthy bladder and preventing incontinence. Aim for at least 8 cups of water per day to avoid dehydration and avoid drinks that may irritate the bladder, such as alcohol and caffeinated beverages.

  2. Go to the bathroom regularly: Scheduling regular bathroom breaks can help prevent accidents and reduce the risk of incontinence.

  3. Wear incontinence products: Incontinence products, such as pads and diapers, can help in managing incontinence and maintain dignity. There are many different types of incontinence products available, so it's important to find the right fit and absorbency level.

  4. Practice pelvic floor exercises: Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, can help strengthen the muscles that support the bladder and improve incontinence. These exercises can be done anywhere, at any time, and can be an effective part of a treatment plan.

  5. Maintain skin health: Incontinence can lead to skin irritation and infections if not properly managed. It's important to keep the skin clean and dry, and to change incontinence products frequently.

Related Articles

About the Author

Ericka Nicolas

Writer & Researcher

Elder Guide LLC

Ericka Nicolas began her career in the banking industry where she learned the importance of being detail-oriented and well-organized, both of which she applies to her current work as a writer and proofreader. With her vast experience in writing, Ericka is able to produce well-researched and engaging content that appeals to Elderguide's target audience. She was able to provide readers with valuable insights on a variety of topics and ensures that all the information she provides is accurate and up-to-date. She takes the time to carefully study each topic given to her, which allows her to produce truly informative articles. Ericka's passion for writing and her dedication to producing quality content gave way to her goal of helping our readers navigate the complex world of senior living and make informed decisions about their future. Aside from her work at Elderguide, Ericka enjoys spending time with her newly-married husband and their dog, Yari. She loves cooking, traveling, and exploring new restaurants in her spare time.