How CNAs Can Help Incontinent Clients

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Did you know that approximately 17 million Americans are incontinent—and 85 percent of them are women? Incontinence is most common among the elderly, especially for people living in long term care facilities. So, is incontinence simply a fact of life? Read on for the real truth…

Myth: Incontinence is a result of old age.
Truth: Incontinence is not a normal part of aging, though there are certain physical and medical factors that can affect a person’s bladder (like menopause in women and an enlarged prostate gland in men).
Myth: Incontinence can’t be treated.
Truth: In most cases, incontinence can be treated successfully.
Myth: Surgery is the only way to treat incontinence.
Truth: Surgery is usually the last option, especially for older people. These days, there are other ways to treat incontinence.
Myth: Becoming incontinent means you’re losing your mind.
Truth: Incontinence can happen to anyone not just to people who have dementia or other mental problems. 
Myth: If someone is incontinent, it’s time to buy diapers.
Truth: Absorbent products may seem like the answer at first, but they won’t help cure incontinence. It’s important to be diagnosed and treated by a doctor.
It's clear that incontinence is not inevitable--and there may be a solution to a client's incontinence.  If you work with clients who are incontinent, do you “think outside the box” by looking for answers to the following questions?
  • Can the client tell when she has to go to the bathroom? If so, does the urge to urinate come on suddenly?
  • Is the client physically able to get to the toilet by himself? If so, how much time does it take?
  • Is there a clear, well-lit path to the bathroom?
  • Does the client “leak” urine when laughing, coughing, sneezing or bending over?
  • How is the client’s fluid intake? Does there seem to be any relation to consuming caffeine and being incontinent of urine?
  • What about medications? Does the client have episodes of incontinence after taking specific drugs?
  • How many times per day is the client incontinent? When it occurs, is the diaper area just damp or is it really soaked?
  • How does incontinence affect the client’s quality of life?
When you share your observations about a client’s incontinence (including answers to the above questions), you give the nurse and/or physican valuable information. There are many types and causes of incontinence and many can be treated successfully. So, as you work with incontinent clients, pay attention to details and report them to your supervisor.
For more information, check out our Handling Incontinence & UTIs inservice--written especially for CNAs like you!  And, if you have a great tip about helping an incontinent client, please share it by adding a comment below.  Thanks!



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