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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2000 Aug;48(8):894-902.

Self-care practices used by older men and women to manage urinary incontinence: results from the national follow-up survey on self-care and aging.

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Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, UNC-Chapel Hill, USA.



To estimate the extent to which self-care practices are employed by older adults with urinary incontinence (UI); to determine how demographic and functional status measures are associated with self-care practice use; and to explore the relationship between contacting a doctor and disposable pad use.


A cross-sectional analysis of a national probability sample using multiple logistic regression.


Responses of subjects with UI (n = 787) from the 1993-1994 National Follow-up Survey on Self-Care and Aging, a follow-up survey of older Medicare beneficiaries living in the community within the contiguous United States drawn in 1990-1991


Subject responses about UI, fecal incontinence, dressing, eating, bathing, Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL), Mobility Activities of Daily Living (MADL), age, gender, place of residence, race, education, proxy response to the survey, and self-reported medical conditions.


Self-care practices used by more than 25% of respondents with UI included using disposable pads, limiting trips, and limiting fluids. Among older adults with incontinence, more women used disposable pads (44.5%; 95% CI, 36.9-52.1) and performed exercises (14.2%; 95% CI, 9.7-18.9) than did men (15.1%; 95% CI, 8.1-22.1; and 4.3%; 95% CI, 1.0-7.7, respectively). Bi-variate analysis showed respondents with severe UI or fecal incontinence reported greater use of self-care practices. In multivariate models of the three most commonly used self-care practices, measures of UI severity were not always associated independently with self-care practice use, whereas ADL measures of functional status were. Disposable pad use was positively independently associated (OR 3.36; 95% CI, 2.01-5.63) in multivariate models with contacting a doctor about incontinence, even after controlling for age, gender, demographics, and self-reported medical conditions.


Use by older adults of self-care practices to manage urinary incontinence is predicted independently in multivariate models by measures of functional status such as dressing, eating, bathing, IADLs or MADLs, but not by all UI measures. Disposable pad users had increased odds of contacting a doctor, suggesting that self-care practices and formal medical care are not always inversely related.

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