Stigma silences many seniors into keeping secret their bladder and bowel control condition.
A new continence clinic in Etobicoke seeks to shatter the stigma and the silence and offer solutions.
Seniors 65 and older may book an appointment at the continence clinic, which opens Wednesday, Nov. 28 at Etobicoke Services for Seniors (ESS).
A nurse continence advisor provides assessment and education free-of-charge. The non-medicinal, non-surgical clinic is offered by The Credit Valley Hospital and Trillium Health Centre.
“Incontinence is not a part of growing old; that’s a myth,” Priti Patel, the hospital’s clinical manager of Seniors’ Health Services said in an interview at the clinic on Wednesday, Nov. 7. “Seniors can manage it. In certain cases, it can be cured. It is not a fact of life. There is help out there.”
Should treatment options suggested by the nurse not work, recommendations may be made for the senior to see a urologist or try medication.
“Many seniors have hidden it for years and lived in silence,” said Laura Robbs, clinical nurse specialist with Seniors’ Health Services with the hospital who heads the clinic program, and runs a continence program for patients of all ages at Trillium Health Centre’s West Toronto hospital in Etobicoke across the street from Sherway Gardens.
“We know some seniors who don’t leave the house anymore. Others who don’t sing in the choir anymore. Some women won’t discuss the issue with their male doctor.”
One in four Canadian women and one in 10 Canadian men experience incontinence, Canadian Continence Foundation statistics indicate. As men age, their numbers get closer to the statistics for women, Robbs said.
But incontinence need not be life-limiting.
“You can do Kegel exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor,” Robbs explained. “We look at their fluid intake. If they’re not drinking enough, that can lead to decreased bladder capacity. We do bladder retraining, so if you go every 15 minutes, you wait 20 then 25 minutes. We look at diet, weight loss and exercises.”
Robbs’ partnership with Etobicoke Services for Seniors (ESS) was a natural fit. The hospital’s Seniors’ Health Services shares ESS’s mission — to keep seniors safely living in their homes for as long as possible.
Seniors who attend the incontinence clinic may also be referred to any of a number of the hospital’s seniors’ services.
“This continence clinic is a very important service to seniors and their caregivers,” said Alli Sergautis, a nurse by profession, who is Etobicoke Services for Seniors’ director of education and training. “It will help seniors maintain their independence, dignity, control, social activities. We’re so excited for the partnership. It’s an accessible location for support and education to make a quality of life improvement for seniors.”
The clinic’s nurse specialist will see five seniors each Wednesday. The initial visit lasts about 75 minutes. During it, the nurse specialist will take a patient’s medical and medication history, conduct a physical examination, and possibly perform an ultrasound test to indicate how well the senior’s bladder is functioning. Recommendations will be made. A followup appointment will be made in six to eight weeks. Followup appointments are about 30 minutes.
Most seniors will need three appointments.
Seniors 65 and older are encouraged to make an appointment at the clinic if they:
• Go to the washroom often;
• Worry about falling when rushing to the washroom;
• Leak urine with a cough, laugh, sneeze or during activity;
• Have frequent bladder infections;
• Have problems with constipation;
• Have problems with bowel control;
• Wake up more than once during the night to urinate;
• Have a strong desire to urinate right away;
• Need to learn how to use a catheter.
Etobicoke Services for Seniors is located at 525 Horner Ave., just west of Brown’s Line in Alderwood. The clinic is open every Wednesday starting at 8:30 a.m. A doctor’s referral is not required. Call 416-521-4090 to make an appointment.