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Caregiving 101: Bladder and Bowel Control

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Bladder and bowel conditions, which include urinary problems, constipation and diarrhea, may be the symptom of an underlying illness, an infection or a treatment. If your elderly patient complains of any change in his/her bladder or bowel movements, such as discoloration or discomfort, or he has any difficulty in going to the toilet, you should always seek medical advice.

Urination and Defecation:

Someone who is healthy will pass urine and feces naturally:

How Urine is Passed:

  • The bladder stores urine produced in the kidneys;
  • As the bladder fills, nerve impulses signal to the brain that the bladder is full ang must be emptied;
  • The urine is passed - and discharged - through a tube (the urethra) connected to the bladder.

How Feces is Passed:

  • Digestion takes place as food passes from the stomach to the small intestine;
  • Any nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream; what remains passes into the large bowel;
  • This waste matter, which is no longer required by the body, is stored in the large bowek before being expelled via the rectum.

Recognition and Treatments:

Once you recognise that there is a problem, you can identify possible cause and explore treatments.

What To Do For Urinary Problems:

Signs of an infection are stinging and discomfort on passing urine, abdominal pain, or if the urine:

  • is dark or cloudy in color, or contains blood.
  • has a particular pungent smell.
  • is being passed frequently but in small quantities.

Seek medical help. Your patient's doctor may need to prescribe medication to treat the infection if it is the cause of the urinary problem.

What To Do For Constipation:

This condition occurs when the person has failed to open his bowels as normal. There may be an obstruction, ot the waste matter (feces) may have become dry, making it difficult to pass.

  • Seek medical help. A doctor may prescribe laxatives, suppositories or, in severe cases, an enema.
  • Encourage toilet use. Encourage your patient to use the toilet regularly, even though he may be reluctant to do so because his bowel movements are painful.
  • Adapt the diet. Make sure he eats a balanced diet high in fibre and drinks plenty of fluids.

What To Do For Diarrhea:

When a person passes liquid feces at frequent intervals, the condition is known as diarrhea.

  • Seek medical help. See a doctor, especially if your patient is an elderly or ill.
  • Adapt the diet. Give your patient plenty of fluids, including water with a pinch of salt. Abstaining from food for 24 hours may also help to patients with diarrhea.

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