When caring for someone, ensuring that their bladder is in good health – especially if they deal with urological issues – is very important. Our professional, live-in carers can help encourage better bladder health.
Caring for a loved one can be fraught with many different challenges and issues. Many of these challenges stem from managing the physical health of a loved one. Bladder health is one aspect of a person’s health that our experienced live-in carers can help manage. Urological conditions can prove challenging to deal with and may require a carer to help a person with using the toilet while also helping them maintain their hygiene. This responsibility can be a challenge for loved ones – both physically and mentally.
However, hiring a live-in carer, either on a part-time or full-time basis, can really help to reduce the physical toil and stress of acting as a carer to a loved one, providing vital moments of respite. Professional, fully qualified carers are also trained to deal with challenges that come from being a carer – such as managing a person’s bladder health. In this article, Better Healthcare is going to look at how bladder problems can pose an issue and how a professional carer can help improve your loved one’s bladder health.
What is the bladder?
The bladder is an organ that is found in the lower abdomen area. This is where urine is stored after it has been produced in the kidneys and has travelled down two tubes (called ureters) to the bladder. The bladder allows for the urine – the extra fluid and waste our body doesn’t need – to then be expelled from the body in a controlled manner. The brain decides when this will happen and automatically sends a message to the bladder to contract and allow the urine to be dispensed from the body. On average, the bladder tends to hold between 400ml to 600ml of urine.
However, many people living with certain conditions or who have received particular injuries may find that the abilities of their bladders are different from most other people. These problems can also arise as a result of the ageing process, where numerous bladder and urinary conditions can reduce the effectiveness of the bladder in performing its role. These conditions require careful management to promote the best bladder health possible and ensure that going to the toilet is a manageable experience for the affected person and any carers who may help them.
Common bladder problems
There are several very common bladder problems that affect many millions of people in the UK today. For example, the NHS estimates that urinary incontinence – when someone urinates unintentionally – affects anywhere between 3 to 6 million people in the UK. While there are many more conditions that affect bladder health and well-being, the most common bladder problems include:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs): Bacterial infections that affect the urinary tract and can cause pain, discomfort and burning sensations when using the toilet.
- Urgency incontinence: A sudden and urgent need to pass urine, even when a toilet or method of relief is not readily available. Often caused by an overactive bladder as a result of ageing, a stroke, a nervous system disease or when the brain is no longer able to alert the bladder when to hold urine until the person gets to the toilet.
- Stress incontinence: When urinary incontinence is experienced after exercising, laughing, sneezing or walking. Often caused by a weak bladder or weak pelvic floor muscles and may occur after pregnancy or after a prostate operation.
- Nocturia: A frequent need to get up during the night to pass urine.
- Urinary retention: When the bladder doesn’t completely empty, causing a build of urine that may leak as well as difficulties in passing urine and feeling a constant need to empty the bladder. This can be caused by an obstruction, constipation, a stroke, or living with conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or Parkinson’s disease.
There can be many other conditions and diseases that may cause someone to face bladder problems. For example, people living with dementia may not be able to react to the urge to use the toilet quickly enough – causing urinary incontinence. If your loved one is facing one or more of these bladder problems, it is important that either they or the person who cares for them talks to their GP to diagnose and possibly treat these issues.
What is good for bladder health?
There are a number of lifestyle changes that can be adopted to help reduce and possibly eliminate the effects of any bladder problems that your loved one experiences. Some of these changes include:
- Reducing or quitting smoking, caffeine and alcohol: Smoking and consuming too much alcohol and/or caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, chocolate, etc.) can negatively affect bladder health and encourage incontinence. Reducing or quitting these elements may help reduce the effects of bladder problems.
- Reducing weight: If a person is overweight, it can place pressure on their bladder and cause bladder complications. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce or eliminate these symptoms.
- Regularly exercising: Keeping physically active can help prevent bladder problems and constipation (which can lead to bladder complications). While not everyone may be able to be very physically active, any level of physical activity can help.
- Drinking water: While any drinkable hydrating fluid can help, water is the healthiest drink to encourage good bladder health. Most of us should be aiming to consume at least two litres of water per day. However, some conditions may require a person to drink less water than this in a day (such as people living with heart or kidney failure) so make sure your loved one’s GP is consulted before making any changes.
- Consuming fibre: Alongside exercise and drinking plenty of water, fibre plays a huge role in reducing constipation and, therefore, reducing urological complications. Grains, fruits and vegetables are often high in fibre.
- Wearing loose-fitting clothes: When clothing is too tight – particularly jeans, trousers or underwear – it can trap moisture, which in turn encourages the formation of bacteria that contributes to UTIs. Loose-fitting clothes can allow the area around the urethra (the tube that dispenses urine from the bladder) to be drier and thus reduce infections.
Bladder health management
If these lifestyle changes don’t help, other approaches may be required. Medications can be prescribed to help control infections or to block the messages that cause an overactive bladder to empty at the incorrect time. Other drugs can even cause less urine to be produced, which can be beneficial to those who experience nocturia or can help to relax the bladder muscles, thus reducing the frequency of urge incontinence.
If it is possible, encouraging your loved one to do bladder training and pelvic floor muscle training may also help alleviate their symptoms. This can help to build up the muscles that help to keep urine in the bladder and may be of particular use to those who experience stress incontinence. If your loved one is unable to contract their pelvic floor muscles to train them, then an electrical device can be used to stimulate these muscles. It may be an unpleasant experience for your loved one and so this must be weighed against the well-documented benefits.
If urinary incontinence is a problem, then incontinence products exist to help reduce these symptoms. These can include incontinence pants or pads to help absorb any leakages, handheld urinals and catheters. Catheters are fitted either through the urethra (intermittent) or the abdomen (suprapubic) to allow the urine in the bladder to either be drained into a drainage bag or to be connected to a valve that helps keep the urine in place until it can be emptied into a toilet or container. If this doesn’t help, then surgery is often the last option to help correct any bladder or wider urological issues.
Better Healthcare supports those with bladder issues
Often those who have issues with their bladder can feel distressed or even ashamed about their incontinence or urinary issues which can sometimes be made worse when they are supported by a loved one rather than by a professional carer. Not everyone is comfortable when it comes to dealing with issues that can come about as a result of bladder or bowel problems and that is very normal.
Our carers receive thorough training and support so that they are offering the best possible care to our clients. This also includes training on matters relating to bladder management and techniques to promote good bladder health.
We can help our clients enact lifestyle changes that may lead to better bladder health and a reduction of symptoms arising from bladder problems. This can also include monitoring any existing bladder management techniques – such as following a dietary plan and taking medication – and may involve introducing new techniques, such as a bladder diary to record information that may help identify any triggers that could be causing bladder problems.
Better Healthcare’s carers are also adept at dealing with any issues relating to incontinence products, such as catheterisation. Our team can handle any issues relating to catheters and can even help to safely install a new catheter should any urological issues arise. Additionally, our carers are familiar with detailing any changes on a ‘catheter passport’, a historical record that healthcare professionals consult regarding a person’s catheter use.
Our service is not only great for those who are looking to get a break from their caring duties but can be beneficial as a regular, ongoing arrangement to help relieve the strain of providing constant care.