Recent estimates by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest that over 4 million men in the U.S. experience urinary incontinence, including those with spinal cord injuries, MS, ALS and nearly a dozen other diagnoses. Incontinence is also a major factor in nursing home admission in the U.S., with more than 50% of male nursing home residents requiring assistance in controlling urine output or using the toilet. Taking control of continence management is integral to maintaining an active, independent lifestyle.
Products for managing mens’ urinary incontinence include diapers, condom catheters and indwelling catheters. Newly available is Men’s LibertyTM, a new hydrocolloid based external device which provides a secure, skin-friendly seal for 24-48 hours.
When it comes time to think about managing you or your loved ones’ incontinence, be sure to consider the following five factors. There is a lot of variation out there and it’s important to find the urinary management tool that works best for you!
1. What is the cause of your incontinence?
For men with a blockage that reduces or prevents the flow of urine, external products aren’t going to be appropriate. Indwelling catheters, surprapubic catheters or intermittent catheterization may be appropriate.
However, the vast majority of incontinent men experience stress, urge or functional incontinence. This includes minor leaks when bending or reaching, a sudden and immediate need to urinate or simply the inability to reach a bathroom in time due to mobility challenges. For these individuals, a variety of external products exist which may be appropriate including diapers, condom catheters and Men’s Liberty.
To determine what kind of incontinence you are experiencing and to discuss appropriate management options, please contact your health care professional.
2. What are the potential side effects or complications?
Using indwelling catheters, diapers, pads and condom catheters can cause serious complications. Care givers and patients need to be vigilant to prevent:
Infections: Urine is an excellent medium for bacterial growth. The longer an individual retains urine, the more likely they are to develop a urinary tract infection (UTI). Do not take UTIs lightly. Treatment may require a doctor’s visit and antibiotics. If left untreated, UTIs can lead to more serious infections like sepsis and require hospitalization.
Wounds, Rashes and Bedsores: Wounds and infections can develop under diapers, pads or condom catheters because they allow the skin to be exposed to urine for extended periods of time. If the skin is compromised and left untreated, deeper wounds can result. Most men can use an external continence management device such as Men’s Liberty to eliminate dampness and reduce the possibility of wounds.
3. What are the costs involved?
Out of pocket costs vary depending on Medicare and insurance coverage. Diapers and pads are not covered by Medicare, leaving the vast majority of costs to the consumer. Alternatives such as condom catheters or Men’s Liberty are reimbursed by Medicare and most private insurance plans, reducing initial out of pocket costs. However, patients should also consider the cost of treating the complications of any product they use. Paying for lotions, ointments, antibiotics and doctor’s visits can add up.
4. How will this impact my partner or caregiver?
If you need help managing your urine, it’s important to create as much free time for your spouse or companion as possible. Tying caregivers to your bathroom schedule makes it difficult for them to get a break. Choosing a urine management option that empowers you and does not require frequent assistance is preferred. Alternatively, plans may include employing a personal caregiver, at least on a part-time schedule to provide respite assistance.
5. Make a plan to stay active. And stick to it!
Once you’ve mastered the mechanics, set goals on how you can remain active. Make a schedule and establish routes with available restrooms. Try finding a support group because life is more pleasant when you can share your challenges with other people who understand. Exercise as much as you can. Create a daily routine involving moderate physical activity and make it permanent.
The typical response when dealing with urine control is to cut back on social activities. This is understandable until you learn to manage it. But that’s the key – manage it; then get out and live life to the fullest.
This article offers health and wellness information and is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.