“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
WHEN NOT TO FOLLOW THE URGE
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.
TRACKING MEDICAL CAUSES
If functional abilities are
compromised, such as in neurological disease, there may
be nerve challenges affecting bladder control.
Alzheimer’s patients may have trouble processing the
need to go to the bathroom. Anyone can “train”
themselves to create an overactive bladder, but it’s
important for caregivers to note this. In the
attempt to forestall “accidents”, caregivers may take
their loved ones to the bathroom frequently.
This can contribute to the urge to
urinate, and family members may become accustomed to
visiting more often than needed.
Continence professionals and
organizations like The National Association for
Continence offer resources for individuals who want to
know more about various types of incontinence.
There are articles, media available for purchase, and
free information on determining the actual problem.
While the site is not intended to give medical advice,
it serves as first steps toward identifying the problem,
so medical staff can be informed.
DAYTIME OR NIGHTTIME
Waking more than twice in a
night can fall under the umbrella of “urge
However, it should be noted the
amount of fluid consumed before bed, as well as any
during the night. Some loved ones may complain
about getting up to go, but in between bathroom jaunts,
they may be having a small glass before going back to
Medications that have diuretic effects
figure into fluid intake and output as well.
Cutting off liquids after a certain time may work in
some cases, but those with memory challenges may not
understand. Even a lucid individual will rasp at
being given a “last call” before bedtime.
Upbeat commercials aside, it is in the
caregiver’s and loved one’s best interests to examine
all the factors contributing to the overactive bladder.
Before the doctor writes the prescription, offer all
details on consuming liquids, current over-the-counter
and prescribed medications (including home herbal
remedies and/or caffeine intake) before trying the
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