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Understanding Overactive Bladder

By Cheryl Ellis  Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 2)  

“When you gotta go, you gotta go” has been an age old saying.  These days, with our knowledge of medicine, we have developed medications and treatments for “the urge.”

Not all urges need to be treated with medication, but in some cases it helps.  Behavioral training can benefit any individual who feels they are making too many trips to the bathroom. 


Our bladders hold varying amounts of liquid at different times of the day, and depending on our age and muscle control, we may find that we may not make it in time to empty out what we’ve taken in.  If frequency of urination is the issue, the first step is to determine if we are drinking more than our bladder can reasonably hold. 

In Florida or any other state with a hot climate, drinking fluids is essential.  As humans, we must stay hydrated so our body’s many systems work effectively.  When the body puts out approximately the same amount of fluid being taken in, we have a normal balance.

When a loved one’s system is compromised by various illnesses, fluid balance takes on an additional meaning.  The elderly patient who retains fluid and must
take diuretics will naturally make more trips to the bathroom.  Diabetics may drink more water than their counterparts of the same age group who do not have a blood sugar disorder.

Likewise, certain drinks will create a need for a visit to the restroom sooner.  Caffeinated drinks, even those with low caffeine content, will “open up” the kidneys.  Many soft drinks contain caffeine in various amounts, and even some brands of bottled water are caffeinated.  Label reading is important, and so is portion control when a loved one insists on having a favorite soda.

Keeping a small log of which fluids, a ballpark amount, and number of trips to the bathroom within the one to two hours following consumption can help give caregivers a general idea of what is causing the perceived overactivity.  It could be the caffeine, or the amount of liquid taken in.  Sometimes people will sip at a drink for a much longer period than seems “normal”, and it can be stressful to monitor.  Instead of hurrying up your loved one, note the time when the drink is finished, and go from there.  If a trip to the restroom is in order before the last sip, take a general note of how much they’ve had, and compare it to the time since the last bathroom trip.


At any age, we can condition ourselves and our bladders to be emptied frequently.  While it’s a good idea to void the bladder often enough to prevent bladder irritation, having a loved one on an hourly schedule may increase urges.  It can also condition both caregiver and loved one that any twinge is sufficient to visit the rest room. 

When someone is memory impaired, just as a caregiver has worked to train the loved one to frequent bathroom visits by suggesting the bathroom (or going together), the reverse is true.  Waiting five or even ten minutes longer before a bathroom trip may help with revising frequent urges.


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