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Older People and Continence

Older People and Continence

Continence Problems


Age related changes to the bladder and urinary systems

•   Bladder control problems and wetting are more common in older than younger people.


What to expect

•   Most older people wake at night to pass urine once or twice.

•   Most older men notice the force of urine flow gets less.


Help is needed when

•   The number of times you get up at night becomes a problem.

•   Wetting the bed at night.

•   Having to rush frequently to the toilet.

•   Going to the toilet to pass urine more often than every 2 hours during the day.

•   Wetting so underclothes have to be changed or smell is a problem.


What can affect bladder control?

•   Prostate gland enlargement in men can cause dribbling of urine, having to pass urine frequently, going to the toilet at night and poor urinary flow.

•   Urinary infections are more common in older people. Symptoms, including bladder control problems, may be caused by urinary infections. Some bladder problems can cause symptoms similar to those of infection.

•   Some diseases make it difficult to get to and use the toilet such as arthritis, stroke, Parkinson's disease and dementia.

•   After the menopause, when a woman's periods stop, there is less of the female hormone, oestrogen. Some bladder symptoms can worsen because of this decline in oestrogen levels.

•   Bladder control problems, including having to rush to the toilet in a hurry, passing urine frequently, waking more than three times a night to pass urine, and wetting, can be caused by some diseases.

•   Examples of diseases causing these bladder control problems are stroke, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

What Else Can Affect Bladder Control? 

â—¦ Some medications can affect bladder control.

â—¦ Poor bladder control and wetting can be caused by constipation, which is infrequent or difficult bowel action.

â—¦ Diabetes is a common disease in older people.

â—¦Diabetes can lead to a person making more urine so they have to go to the toilet more often in the day and at night.

â—¦Diabetes can directly damage the bladder and bowel muscle.

Where can help be found? 

​There are many health professionals qualified to assist you with bladder control problems. You may seek help from your doctor. Your own doctor may offer treatment directly, or refer you to a specialist, or to a qualified continence advisor. You may also seek help and information directly from the following sources: 

â—¦                      Continence Helpline 0800 650 659

â—¦                      GP

â—¦                      Continence Nurse Advisors

â—¦                      & Physiotherapists

â—¦                      Disability Resource Centre

â—¦                      District Nursing Services

â—¦                      Independent Living Centres

1.1 million New Zealanders have difficulty controlling their bladder and bowel

â—¦Pads may help people with bladder control problems to catch the leaking urine.

â—¦Because bladder and urinary systems change with age help is needed to diagnose and treat the bladder control problem.

â—¦Help may also be needed to choose the right pad or equipment for a particular bladder control problem and to protect skin and prevent bad smells.

â—¦ Bladder control or wetting problem are not just because of being old and almost always things can be done to improve the bladder control problem.

Reproduced with permission from the Continence Foundation of Australia

This document has been developed by, and remains the property of, the Continence Foundation of Australia © Continence Foundation of Australia 2015