Overactive Bladder Is Associated With Higher Fall Risk in Seniors
As people age, they often experience a decreased ability to control bladder function. While loss of bladder control can be embarrassing, there are other more serious health risks associated with it as well.
A recent study conducted among Medicare patients found that those diagnosed with overactive bladder (OAB) were at significantly greater risk of falling than those without the diagnosis. Reasons for this risk increase vary, and it’s important for both seniors and their caregivers to understand what the condition is, why it may increase risk of falling, and what they can do to prevent a fall.
What is Overactive Bladder?
Overactive bladder is a condition in which the bladder fails to effectively store urine. People with the condition experience sudden urges to urinate which often result in involuntary loss of urine (known as incontinence). This condition occurs much more frequently in seniors over the age of 65, with prevalence increasing as people age. As many as 50% of seniors experience incontinence, making this a widespread concern. The good news is that it can often be dealt with effectively using behavioral interventions and medication.
Why Do Seniors With Overactive Bladder Experience More Falls?
The sudden urge to go which is characteristic of overactive bladder often causes elderly people to try to move more quickly than they normally do in order to reach the bathroom. The older people get, the greater their risk of falling as they try to move around the house. This occurs for three primary reasons:
- Inhibited Mobility–Elderly people often have difficulty walking, and the lack of motor skills and muscle strength combined with the urgency to get to the bathroom can result in loss of balance. In addition, seniors with OAB often have to get up in the night to go and may trip over something or bump into something in the dark.
- Reduced Cognition–Many seniors with OAB also suffer with reduced cognition in the form of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Such people may not have the mental ability to plan ahead in terms of fluid intake or proximity to the bathroom.
- Activities of Daily Living–Going about the ordinary activities of their day may take seniors farther from the restroom than they intended. When the urge to go strikes, fear of having an accident or embarrassment when in a public place may cause seniors to move more quickly than they safely should.
How Can Seniors with OAB Reduce Their Fall Risk?
In addition to medication, doctors recommend several behavioral interventions to help seniors manage not only their overactive bladder symptoms, but also their risk of falling. These include:
- Fluid Intake Schedule–When fluid is consumed on a regular schedule, bathroom breaks can be planned into the day with some certainty.
- Double Voiding–Trying to void a second time after the bladder has been emptied can help prevent the immediate need to revisit the facilities.
- Schedule Bathroom Breaks–Seniors should go to the bathroom on a schedule rather than waiting until they feel the urge.
- Wear Absorbent Pads–Absorbent undergarments can help prevent the embarrassment of having an accident, especially in public places. It can also reduce any fears that may be associated with soiling clothes or furniture.
If you have an elderly loved one with overactive bladder, he or she may need full-time care in order to remain at home and continue a regular routine. In-home caregivers play an important role in helping seniors manage their overactive bladder symptoms in order to reduce the risk of falls. Caregivers can help seniors remember to take their medication, create and assist with fluid intake and bathroom break schedules, and provide assistance with mobility in walking to and from the bathroom.
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