Easy exercises to fight incontinence
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By Julie Ann Anderson  October 11, 2013 12:00 am

Incontinence in elderly women is common. The National Association For Continence (NAFC) estimates that some 25 million adult Americans experience some form of urinary incontinence (that is, an involuntary loss of bladder control). The NAFC further estimates that 75-80 percent of those with urinary incontinence are women.

 More than a bother

Urinary incontinence not only causes bother and embarrassment, but it may also be a sign of a more serious illness and may lead to other issues. The NAFC cites statistics that indicate the need to urgently reach a bathroom due to incontinence increases the risk of falls in elderly individuals by up to 26 percent; it also increases bone fracture risk by up to 34 percent.

There are numerous causes of incontinence in elderly individuals, and seniors who experience incontinence should consult with a doctor to determine the causes and appropriate treatments. However, one of the most common ways to prevent and treat incontinence is to exercise the pelvic muscles that help control urinary passage. It is important to note, though, some forms of incontinence require more treatment than just exercise, so seniors experiencing such problems should still contact a doctor to determine the best method of treatment.

The most basic pelvic exercises are Kegel exercises, named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, who conducted research into incontinence. There are a range of Kegel exercises you can do, but here is a simple routine that can help strengthen pelvic muscles.

The basics

Squeezing or contracting the pelvic muscles is the key to good Kegel exercises. When you contract, you should feel the pelvic muscles pulling slightly upward toward the top of your body. Make sure you are squeezing, not pushing; we often use our pelvic muscles to push during urination, but for these exercises you want to pull, not push.

You can use these pelvic squeezes to build up both strength and endurance. To strengthen your muscles, contract the muscles and hold for two seconds. Release and rest for two seconds. Repeat this for a total of 10 contractions. That’s one set. The goal is to perform three sets of these contractions over the course of a day.

Building endurance simply requires you to do the same series of contracting and releasing but to take more time. Rather than contracting for two seconds and resting for two seconds, you should contract for 10 seconds and relax for 10 seconds. Again, the goal is to perform three sets of endurance contractions over the course of a day.

 Position

Try the Kegel exercises each day for one week (or longer, if needed). You can do them in a number of positions, although you may find the routine below helpful.

• Perform both the strength and endurance sets while in a lying down position.

• Perform both the strength and endurance sets while in a seated position.

• Perform the strength and endurance sets while in a standing position.

Kegel exercises are not selectively taught to just elderly ladies. While expecting my daughter 18 years ago, my OB/GYN recommended learning and practicing these Kegel exercises as a preventive to losing pelvis strength from the weight of caring the baby then, too. I have known many friends who lost some strength in bladder control after childbirth, and Kegels help them regain that strength, hence their confidence when sneezing and not having leakage concerns.

Regaining control of your bladder can make a big difference. These exercises, combined with treatments deemed appropriate by your doctor, can help you fight incontinence.  You can find more detailed information about incontinence care on our website at www.helpforalzheimersfamilies.com.

Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.

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