A person may find themselves in the position of being a caregiver when they least expect it.
A spouse or the children of an older adult may become their caregiver in an instant if their parent or loved one falls or has a medical-related incident. The person in their new caregiver role may have a brand-new set of responsibilities and be faced with issues they never heard of or were not prepared for.
Being a caregiver may not be the issue as much as knowing how to be a caregiver.
Taking care of another person may be intimidating for someone who had no idea they’d ever be in that position. Older adults may develop illnesses, physical limitations, medical conditions or even suffer side effects from dangerous medications or medical devices that the caregiver had no prior knowledge of.
Two common conditions that caregivers of seniors may face are Alzheimer’s disease and incontinence.
Alzheimer’s Drugs Require Close Monitoring
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and often occurs in seniors.
It affects memory, language and the part of the brain that controls thought. It’s estimated that more than 5 million Americans suffer from the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 5 percent of Americans ages 65 to 74 have Alzheimer’s. The population with Alzheimer’s could reach 16 million by 2050.
Caregiving for a person with Alzheimer’s can be emotionally taxing, require a lot of patience, and be expensive. There are medications available for Alzheimer’s patients, but the jury is out on their effectiveness.
Unfortunately, the drugs also have side effects that may include dizziness, drowsiness and fainting – conditions that may increase the risk of falls. If more than one of these drugs is prescribed, side effects could be worse.
Caregivers should closely monitor people with Alzheimer’s disease and report symptoms or side effects to doctors.
Incontinence Issues May Catch Caregivers Off Guard
Aging adults may also suffer from incontinence, which is the involuntary loss of urine. Incontinence can occur in seniors who suffered a stroke, developed dementia or experienced other changes associated with aging.
Women experience urinary incontinence twice as often as men, due to the effects of pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.
Urinary incontinence can be a minor annoyance (losing small amounts of urine while sneezing, laughing or coughing) or become debilitating if people stay inside to avoid embarrassment.
It is important for caregivers to know that many types of incontinence are treatable. Also, there are ways to ease the stress of the condition:
- Don’t embarrass or criticize a person who has an accident.
- Be supportive, patient and put yourself in the shoes of the person suffering from it.
- Help the person manage their consumption of liquids.
- Remind and encourage them to use the bathroom regularly.
Incontinence can be treated in a variety of ways. It may start with behavior modification. Women can do exercises to strengthen bladder muscles. Medical options are available too.
There are also medications for overactive bladders, medical devices and surgical procedures that may be good options. People faced with incontinence issues should discuss their options with a doctor.
Caregivers should be aware, however, that some treatments can lead to additional complications.
Mesh Treatments for Incontinence Linked to Injuries, Subject of Lawsuits
A common solution for female patients with incontinence is a bladder sling. During this surgery, a narrow strip of synthetic mesh is inserted to relieve pressure on the bladder. Unfortunately, when the mesh is implanted through the vagina, there can be serious complications.
Before choosing procedures involving vaginal mesh, patients and caregivers should be aware of the dangers associated with using the device.
Complications can include tissue erosion, nerve damage, infection and internal organ damage. These injuries often require revision surgeries.
More than 30,000 women in the United States filed lawsuits after being injured by transvaginal mesh devices, including bladder slings.
Knowing about medical issues that occur to seniors can help a caregiver do a few things: understand and manage the issue, figure out treatment options and identify possible complications and side effects that come as a result.
Caregiving comes with challenges and times of stress, but knowing what to do when situations occur may ease the intimidation that may come with the newfound set of responsibilities.
Julian Hills is a staff writer for Drugwatch.com. He has a background in newspaper and television journalism. He studied Communication and English at Florida State University.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease. [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.) Caregiving for Alzheimer’s Disease or other Dementia. [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/aging/caregiving/index.htm
National Institute on Aging. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s Disease Medications Fact Sheet [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-medications-fact-sheet
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Urinary Incontinence in Women. [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/uiwomen/
U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Urinary Incontinence In Women [Abstract]. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1273322/
Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). Incontinence. Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-incontinence.asp