Supporting a loved one with healthcare issues can be difficult, especially when you don’t understand them. Urological health is one such issue that is especially complex when the sufferer has existing health problems.
Issues relating to urological health can be quite common in certain groups of people, particularly those who are elderly or living with conditions such as dementia. Those living with dementia may not be able to effectively communicate their discomfort, or perhaps not even communicate their discomfort at all; they can be particularly at risk of living with undiagnosed urological conditions.
As some people who are suffering with urological problems may not be able to fully articulate their discomfort or pain, urological health often has to be monitored by a spouse, relative or friend who is acting as a carer for their loved one.
As such, being able to identify urological issues in loved ones is important in not only maintaining their urological health, but also in the prevention of further complications that may arise from such issues. To help you understand urology and what to look out for in your loved one, the healthcare experts at Better Healthcare are here to fill you in on what you need to know about urological health.
What is urology?
Urology refers to a branch of medicine and health care that focuses on diseases and infections relating to the urinary tract in both females and males, as well as the reproductive organs in males. Urology is therefore concerned with the kidneys, bladder, urethra (tube through which urine is expelled from the body), ureters (tubes that connect kidneys and bladder), prostate, penis, scrotum and testes. According to Health Awareness UK, one in two people will be affected by a urological condition in their lifetime. As diseases and cancers affecting these organs are increasing in the UK, urological health is something that we could all benefit from understanding.
Medical professionals who specialise in urology are called urologists. They help detect, identify and treat urological issues, disorders and diseases that can affect the organs detailed above. In the UK, around 10% of all GP consultations in the UK are related to urology. While the vast majority of urological conditions can be managed through medicine, some may require surgery. Moreover, about one-quarter of all surgical hospital referrals in the UK relate to urology. This demonstrates the commonness of issues related to urological health and the likeliness of them affecting yourself or a loved one.
Examples of urological conditions
There are many different types of urological health conditions that can impact both a person’s urological health and their general health. Common and easily-identifiable conditions include:
This is when a person passes urines unintentionally. According to the Bladder & Bowel Community, approximately 60-70% of those living with Alzheimer’s disease (the most prominent cause of dementia) will develop urinary incontinence. This often happens due to a person’s inability to recognise their urge to urinate as well as the loss of bladder control. It can also be as a result of reduced mobility, not recognising where the bathroom is or being unable to communicate to someone else that they need the assistance to reach the toilet.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
UTIs may pose a higher risk to an older person living with dementia. While younger people are more likely to experience physical symptoms that they may recognise as a UTI, such as painful urination or abdominal pain, older people with dementia may respond differently due to the ageing process. As we age, our immune system changes and reacts differently to infection. Older adults suffering from a UTI may show signs of increased withdrawal or confusion. These symptoms can often be mistaken as being dementia-related and, if undiagnosed, can lead to further complications that may even be life-threatening.
While these conditions can prove specifically problematic to people living with dementia, they can also affect every elderly person. Other common urological issues experienced include lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) which commonly affect men and is linked to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
Symptoms of urological conditions
As many different urological diseases and conditions can affect elderly people and people living with dementia, symptoms can be far-ranging. However, there are several commonly identifiable symptoms that can indicate general urological problems. Such symptoms include (but are not limited to):
- Urinary incontinence (involuntary urination)
- Frequent urination
- Urging (a sensation that the bladder isn’t empty or an urge to urinate despite having already done so)
- Dysuria (difficulty urinating, often as a result of pain, discomfort or inability to urinate comfortably)
- Anuria (when the kidneys don’t produce urine)
- Nocturia (frequently waking up to pass urine at night)
- Polyuria (when a large amount of urine is passed)
- Oliguria (when a small amount of urine is passed)
For people living with dementia, symptoms may present differently and may not be as apparent. In these instances, it can be worth noting any changes in a person’s behaviour. This can be challenging as dementia can make it difficult to spot when a change in behaviour relates to the presence of a physical issue. At Better Healthcare, our home care and live-in care workers are trained to recognise and support those living with such issues. We understand the difficulty of caring for a loved one while balancing your everyday life, so our carers can help relieve the pressure.
Common traits of urological problems in people living with dementia include:
- Social withdrawal
- Other sudden behavioural changes
It’s also worth noting that urinary incontinence is not necessarily a sign of a serious urological issue but could be exacerbated by other conditions. For example, people living with dementia may forget that they need to use the toilet and elderly people with mobility issues may simply struggle in getting to the toilet in time.
How you can help a person with urological issues
While it can be difficult to identify and attempt to remedy a loved one’s urological issues, especially when they aren’t forthcoming about them, there are things you can do to help reduce or even prevent urological issues such as incontinence and UTIs.
You can help your loved one keep on top of urinary tract infections and incontinence by:
- Prompting or helping them to go to the bathroom through the day. If you are able to do this every couple of hours, it will help reduce the chances of incontinence and reduce their risk of contracting UTIs too.
- Prompting regular hydration as it helps to stave off the risk of UTIs. Keeping track of the amount of fluids your loved one has consumed can help you better judge when they may need the toilet. Drinking approximately six to eight glasses of water a day should be encouraged.
- Ensuring that your loved one is wearing a clean set of clothing every day as well as taking regular showers is important. Poor hygiene also plays an essential role in the development of UTIs.
A reduction of incontinence issues can be brought about by encouraging the person to change their diet. For example, excess weight can increase the risk of incontinence, as can a high intake of caffeine (e.g. coffee, fizzy drinks, tea, etc.). If a person loses weight through dietary changes or gives up foods or beverages that may be contributing to the problem, this can help to reduce urinary incontinence. Additionally, you may want to remove obstacles that could be making access to the toilet difficult. This would also help another common problem that elderly people experience- falls. Read our post on ‘How to prevent falls at home’ for more information.
If these strategies fail to alleviate the issue, then incontinence products may be useful for managing the problem. This can include incontinence pads or pants (to absorb the urine), handheld urinals (to allow relief without finding or getting to the toilet in time) or catheters. A catheter is a flexible tube that is used to empty the wearer’s bladder. It can be used in conjunction with a drainage bag, which allows the urine to be collected and easily emptied into a toilet or container – or in conjunction with a catheter valve that can be released to allow urine to flow from the bladder into a toilet or container. In such cases, either an indwelling catheter (inserted through the urethra) or a suprapubic catheter (inserted through the abdomen) would be fitted. These catheters are usually changed every few months by medical professionals; however, it is possible to learn how to do this yourself.
It is worth noting that people with indwelling and suprapubic catheters face an increased risk of contracting CAUTIs (known as catheter-associated urinary tract infections). These risks can be reduced through usage of medication, ancillary products that can be connected to the catheter, good hygiene, regular replacement of the catheter and a safe, hygienic insertion of replacement catheters.
Medication may also be prescribed to help with the issue. If you are responsible for the medical care of a loved one, talk to their GP about the problem. Make sure that you and the person you are caring for discuss your options with a medical professional before commencing any medication as drugs may have side effects that could have consequences on your loved one’s short-term and long-term health. If medication fails to resolve the problem, the last option may be to correct the issue via surgery. This may carry some risks and healthcare professionals will consult with you and your loved one over their suitability for a possible operation.
Better Healthcare Services can provide support for those with urological issues
Caring for a loved one can be challenging. Often there are a lot of emotions involved and when further complications arise, such as urological issues, it can prove overwhelming for many people acting as full-time carers to their loved one. In such situations, there is often very little downtime, and this can have an impact on the carer’s health too.
At Better Healthcare, we witness this scenario very often – and it’s why we provide respite care services. Our full-time, professional live-in and home carers provide additional support to people living with a variety of conditions.
We can work with you to understand the particular needs of your loved ones – no matter how complicated they may be – in order to provide a service that allows you to get that much needed downtime while ensuring that your loved one continues to receive that same high standard of care and support.
While guilt can play a part in someone not taking time off from providing support to a loved one, it’s important that you recognise that your own needs are important too. Ultimately, a temporary break can be the best thing for all parties. It will allow you time to recharge and re-energise so you can better cope with the needs of your loved one, which means you can both continue to positively benefit from your relationship.
Better Healthcare’s team of carers genuinely care about ensuring that your loved one’s medical, care and support needs are being met. We also ensure that you feel listened to when detailing any requirements (such as dietary needs) and instructions that need to be followed so that your loved one’s stress and discomfort levels are kept to a minimum.
For more information on the services we provide, simply call Better Healthcare today on 0800 668 1234 or contact your closest local office today.