Last week I attended an amazing IPL (Inter Professional Learning) seminar all about continence issues across the age span. First I’d like to highly recommend going to as many IPLs as you can as they offer a really useful insight into specialist areas of nursing, you may not realise you have a particular interest in. Continence may not be a topic that particularly grabs you but having spent a fair few hours on a gastro ward I have experienced up close what its impact on a patient can be.
The continence specialist nurse who spoke (let’s call her Liz for confidentiality’s sake) truly was a specialist. She brought a whole table-full of gadgets and aids available through the Trust to help patients both in community and in hospital with continence needs. It isn’t uncommon for continence issues to arise following a hospital stay as patients catheterised for a prolonged period of time can have depleted control of their urethral sphincter. This has led to a worrying culture of nurses in hospital and community thinking that incontinence is just a symptom of old age. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. If a patient is losing control of their bladder or bowels there are things that can be done or services we can provide, like consultations with specialist nurses such as Liz.
There are dozens of conditions that can lead to continence issues and they don’t just affect the elderly!! Stress incontinence or urge incontinence can affect anyone at any age, for example urinary incontinence is quite common directly following vaginal birth especially traumatic births involving use of forceps or indeed vaginal tearing (this however should not last longer than a day or two).
The best solution we have to continence issues is to try and avoid them ever existing. Pelvic floor exercises for example only take a minute or so and can be done anytime, anywhere. In fact I’m doing them now as I write this post. Strengthening your pelvic floor allows better control of your bladder and a better sex life – according to Liz. Taking good care of your bladder and bowels with a healthy diet, plenty of fluids and regular strengthening should be far more commonplace than it is because, believe me, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.