Many older adults, and the individuals who take of them, have misconceptions about urinary incontinence that can interfere with treatment and management. The most common myths about incontinence are:

Myth #1 Urinary incontinence is a normal part of aging, especially in older women.

While it is true that changes occur in our bodies as we age which make older adults, particularly women, more likely to experience incontinence, it should not be considered a normal or inevitable part of the aging process.

Myth #2 - Nothing can be done to treat urinary incontinence in older adults.

This is not the case in most instances.There are ways that incontinence can be treated successfully. Older people with incontinence should be carefully assessed to determine the reason for the incontinence. Often with careful assessment and treatment, incontinence can be dramatically improved or completely reversed. The combination of options is increasingly recognized by clinicians as the most effective treatment.

Myth #3 - The only successful treatment for urinary incontinence is surgery.

Surgery is one treatment for incontinence, primarily for stress urinary incontinence (SUI). However, surgery for older adults is likely the last option to be considered when other treatments have failed. There are many behavioral treatments, lifestyle modifications, exercises, medications, and new technologies that can be used to manage incontinence. There are no known adverse reactions or side effects to behavioral treatments, lifestyle modifications, and exercises. Even so, there are advancements in surgical intervention that are minimally invasive and thus options today for people well into their 80s and even 90s.

Myth #4 - Drinking less fluid will improve urinary incontinence.

Often older adults limit their fluid intake in the mistaken belief that if they drink less they will produce less urine and their incontinence will be less severe. However, severely limiting fluids leads to more concentrated urine which irritates the bladder and makes the problem worse. Drinking adequate fluids and allowing about two hours between trips to the bathroom keeps the urine diluted and helps to maintain a normal bladder capacity.

Myth #5 - The individual is having accidents on purpose.

Sometimes caregivers who are busy and frustrated might think that their loved one is having incontinence episodes on purpose. When older adults have accidents, it is likely because they may not be able to get to the bathroom in time or because memory loss makes them unaware of proper toileting habits.

Myth #6 - Absorbent products are the only option to manage urinary incontinence for people who are homebound or in long-term care facilities.

For some, a restorative intervention such as bladder training, or timed and prompted voiding, can bring meaningful results. For others, absorbent products may be the most appropriate management strategy. Proper selection for sizing, fit, and absorbency is essential for maximum satisfaction and product performance. Adequate assessment should be done to individualize management and find the best intervention for each person. Absorbent products should not be used solely for the convenience of the homecare provider.