Incontinence is the second leading cause of institutionalization, according to the National Association for Continence. When people with incontinence are given better ways to manage their condition, it can help them remain at home longer or even avoid institutionalization completely.
“Most seniors prefer to remain in their own homes for as long as possible,” said Ty Takayanagi, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development with Triple W, a company focused on improving incontinence care. “Moving to a long term care facility raises all kinds of other issues. It’s often a major disruption to your life and your relationships, not to mention the serious financial considerations.”
At the same time, we know that seniors who need extra care usually depend on spouses or adult children for support. The problem is that the spouses themselves are often seniors with their own health issues. If incontinence becomes a major problem, it’s natural to look to institutions.
“Our mission is to try to help people stay independent for as long as possible. That was our motivation for inventing DFree,” said Takayanagi.
DFree is a small, non-invasive wearable device that uses ultrasound to monitor your bladder. If you have incontinence or overactive bladder, you can find yourself urinating uncontrollably. Wearing a DFree provides incontinence support, it will send an alert to your phone when it’s time to go to the toilet.
“It’s a very simple solution really and it works,” he said. “It’s about dignity. When you can toilet yourself, you maintain a higher degree of independence and dignity. No one wants to look to their spouse or child to clean up accidents.”
A 2003 Finnish study by Maria Nuotio agreed with the conclusion that incontinence is a leading predictor for institutionalization. The study found that tended to be more true for men than for women and concluded that caregivers should promote continence and an incontinence care plan.
Tellingly, some of the earliest adopters of the DFree have been long term care facilities who need to care for sometimes hundreds of people with incontinence. DFree sends alerts to workers who can help residents go to the toilet before they have an accident.
“Our focus is on the quality of life for our residents,” said Kazu Kotani, Administrator for OC Kaigo Homes, a residential care facility for seniors in Laguna Hills, California. “If we can improve the quality of life and our residents are happy, that makes us all happy.”
Kotani has been testing the DFree at his facility. He says that many seniors hesitate to tell people when they need to go to the bathroom. Maybe they are embarrassed or maybe they don’t know they have to go. Having DFree gives his staff the ability to understand their residents better. It reduces stress and improves the quality of care they’re able to provide.
If staying at home is no longer an option, it’s important to ask questions about how long term care facilities treat toileting and incontinence. How do they manage toileting routines? Incontinence support can be a major part of caregivers’ jobs, so it’s important to find a facility that treats it seriously and looks for options that preserve dignity and quality of life.
These questions are going to be increasingly common as the United States’ population continues to age. Sixteen percent of the population is over 65 today. Governments and insurers are looking for options to keep people at home as opposed to trying to fund increasing rates of institutionalization.
“Even those residents who are not incontinent still need help with toileting,” writes the NAFC on its website. “For example, a resident with limited mobility may need help to reach the toilet. Or a resident with dementia may need reminders to use the toilet on a regular basis.”
The NAFC recommends taking a close look at long term care facilities in advance because it can be a complicated decision. The facility needs to have a very clear strategy for interdisciplinary care planning, and that includes an incontinence care plan alongside other health issues that can limit mobility and mental sharpness.