Introduction to Urinary Incontinence

Mary's Story

Introduction to Urinary IncontinenceDo you have trouble with holding your urine? Do you ever lose urine when you don't want to? If so, you may have a common and treatable condition known as Urinary Incontinence (UI).

Many people who have UI know something is wrong, but they don’t know what to do about it.  At Holy Redeemer HomeCare, we are finding new ways to offer valuable services to men and women with incontinence, their families, and their caregivers. 

Reflections - Mary's Story
Last year, I was hospitalized after having a heart attack and spent almost three weeks in the hospital. I needed to have a catheter in my bladder for the first ten days to drain my urine because I was too sick to get up and use the bathroom. When the catheter was removed, I started to have more trouble with my bladder.

Before my heart attack, I was very active. The only bladder problem I had was occasional drops of urine leakage with coughing or sneezing. I wore a thin panty liner everyday, and it was enough to contain the leakage. It never seemed to interfere with my life or regular activities.

All of my problems seemed to start after my heart attack and my hospital stay. I became weaker and less steady on my feet. It took a lot longer to get to the bathroom than normal. I couldn’t hold my urine, and it would start to leak before I could get to the bathroom.  The leakage also got worse with coughing, sneezing, bending, and standing up. 

I was so embarrassed and humiliated. I wondered what I had done to deserve this. I became depressed and withdrawn. I stopped attending my senior club meetings and spending time with my grandchildren. I was afraid of not being able to get to the bathroom and smelling like urine. I didn’t want anyone to see me like this.

Three months ago, I tripped and fell trying to get to the bathroom. I had a large cut on my leg, and I was hospitalized for a couple of days. My doctor ordered home health services from Holy Redeemer. I had a home health aide come to assist me with bathing and a physical therapist to work on safety and general strengthening. A registered nurse taught me how to take care of my leg to make sure my wound was healing properly.

On the first visit, the registered nurse surprised me by asking me if I was having any trouble with my bladder or with urine leakage. She explained that this was very common in the elderly, and it could be treated and sometimes reversed. I admitted to the problems I had controlling my bladder, and she arranged for the continence nurse to visit me. 

The continence nurse gave me a full physical exam. She asked me a lot of questions about my medical history, surgeries, medications, bowel and bladder function, intake of various fluids and artificial sweeteners. She also asked about the course of my urinary incontinence and any past treatment. I told her that until today, I was too embarrassed to discuss my problem in detail with anyone.

The continence nurse explained that several things I was doing were contributing to my problem. She worked closely with my doctor. They recommended a combination of medication, exercise, and changes in my diet and routine.

When the physical therapist came, he asked me if I ever had trouble getting to the bathroom in time. I admitted that often I couldn’t, especially at night. He ordered a commode to keep at my bedside to prevent accidents during the night. Also, he started me on an exercise program to regain my strength and stability.

After six weeks of physical therapy and follow-up by the continence nurse, I was able to get back to using one panty liner a day for occasional drops of leakage. Most importantly, I feel like my old self again. Now, I am able to spend more time with my family and return to the activities I had once enjoyed.

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