If You're Over 65, Never Do This In the Bathroom, Doctors Warn
You're probably overlooking this serious safety hazard. Here's how to avoid it.
A lot can change with age, and for some seniors, those changes may include their bathroom habits. A 2014 report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that 51 percent of adults over the age of 65 suffer from bladder or bowel incontinence—a pair of conditions that often cause a frequent, sudden, or uncontrollable urge to go. "We found that half the population experienced urinary leakage or accidental bowel leakage, and about 25 percent had moderate, severe or very severe urinary leakage," explains the report's lead researcher, Yelena Gorina, a statistician at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
While incontinence is undoubtedly a problem in itself, experts now warn that there's one surprising way the condition could put your health at additional risk. Read on to find out what you should never do in the bathroom over the age of 65.
Never run to the bathroom if you're over the age of 65.
Urinary incontinence is linked with several side effects, including skin problems and urinary tract infections—but according to experts, there's also one lesser-known health concern associated with the condition: incontinence increases your risk of falling when you hurry to the restroom. For this reason, you should never rush to the bathroom, no matter how desperately you need to go.
One study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) found that "frequent urge incontinence was associated independently with an increased risk of falls and non-spine, nontraumatic fractures in older women." The study's authors add that "urinary frequency, nocturia, and rushing to the bathroom to avoid urge incontinent episodes most likely increase the risk of falling, which then results in fractures."
Falling injuries are a major concern for older adults.
Falling injuries are surprisingly prevalent in adults over the age of 65. According to the CDC, roughly 36 million older adults fall each year, resulting in 3 million trips to the emergency room, and 32,000 deaths annually. The health authority says that over 95 percent of hip fractures "are caused by falling—usually by falling sideways."
One study published in the medical journal Reviews in Urology estimates that falls account for 70 percent of accidental deaths in people aged 75 years and older. "Nearly one in four community-dwelling men over age 65 have one or more falls each year," the study notes. Such falls can seriously impact your ability to live independently as you continue to age.
However, experts say that you can mitigate these risks by seeking medical attention for urinary changes. "Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of urge incontinence may decrease the risk of fracture," says the JAGS study.
There are several treatment options available.
To reach a formal diagnosis for incontinence, your doctor will most likely start by gathering your medical history and conducting a physical exam. If your doctor believes you likely have urinary incontinence, they may also perform an analysis of your urine to look for signs of abnormalities or infection. They may also ask you to keep a "bladder diary," which is a record of how much you drink, how frequently you urinate, and other relevant data.
Once they've reached a formal diagnosis, your medical provider will most likely recommend treatments or interventions. These may include medication, pelvic floor exercises, medical devices, surgery, or behavioral changes.
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Here's how to minimize your risk of fall injury on your way to the bathroom.
While addressing the underlying problem of urinary incontinence should lower your chances of a fall injury, the CDC says that there are other measures you should take to further minimize your risk. Begin by speaking openly with your doctor about fall injury prevention, and be sure to tell them immediately if you have fallen or feel unsteady on your feet. They may advise having your eyes or feet checked for signs of heightened risk. Your doctor may also review any prescription medications which could leave you dizzy or off-balance.
Next, get rid of any fall hazards—especially obstructions that may prevent you from safely accessing your bathroom. Not sure where to begin? Use this handy CDC checklist for assessing your home's hazards. You may also wish to install handrails or new lighting in your bathroom for added safety.
And, finally, be conscious of the risks of a frantic rush to the restroom or anywhere else in your home. Your doctor may be able to help you make a plan for those moments when getting to the bathroom quickly simply isn't in the cards.