Nocturia in Seniors: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Nocturia is defined as a medical condition in which one voids one’s bowels at least twice per night, interrupting sleep.  Nocturia is a common ailment in older adults, especially those 70 years and older. Due to its prevalence, nocturia is usually dismissed as an inevitable sign of aging, however, the effects of nocturia affect the quality of life of the senior and should, therefore, be treated seriously. A significant number of falls occur during the night when a senior may be awakening and going to the washroom.  This can lead to minor and serious injuries that can result in a painful recovery or even death.  This safety concern is cited alongside nocturia as among some of the reasons why seniors are admitted to care homes.

Symptoms of Nocturia

The symptoms of nocturia regard the voiding of one’s bowels, specifically at night. This is also associated with a variety of connected urinary dysfunction symptoms. Those with nocturia are also suffering from decreased ability to control their bladder and postpone urination. Their functional bladder capacity and urinary flow rate may also be compromised.  As nocturia affects the bladder and subsequent movements, it is important to be mindful of how the symptoms of nocturia are also affecting organ function and how that disfunction is affecting the senior’s quality of life.

Cause of Nocturia

The cause of nocturia in seniors can relate to a variety of different systems. If the urinary system is compromised then that can contribute to nocturia. The hormonal system may also be a cause, because as hormones change, so too do how our organs function, including our bladder and bowels. Our systems are also affected by medical conditions and medications, which may increase urine production. Mental health can also be a factor, and mental illnesses or environmental stress from family and friends can contribute to restless sleep and increase nighttime awakenings.

Treatment of Nocturia

The first step of any functional treatment plan is documentation and assessment. If your senior loved one is experiencing nocturia-like symptoms, you can begin a dated journal that outlines the days, times, and potential causes of nocturia. Begin to be mindful of patterns of fluid intake, and daytime voiding habits. Ensure that your elderly loved one is avoiding nighttime fluid intake especially alcohol and caffeine. Another treatment is reducing non-sleep time spent in bed and increasing moderate daytime exercise.

Afternoon leg elevation can also decrease fluid retention along with the use of compression socks or stockings. In most cases of nocturia, non-pharmacological treatment is helpful but medications are frequently needed. Therefore, it is important you are working with your doctor and keeping them informed using your dated journal and documentation. Accurate information can help your family physician make the best-informed call for which medications may be most appropriate for your elderly loved one.

Nocturia can be a condition that brings about a variety of complex emotions for your elderly loved one. It is important to be sensitive and compassionate as those suffering from nocturia can feel embarrassed and ashamed of their condition. It is important to hold space for their feelings and let them know that nocturia is incredibly common and there are treatments available to help them feel more confident in their bladder and bowel control. In terms of frequent nighttime washroom breaks, it may be wise to hire a personal care worker to oversee nighttime visits to the restroom. Falls at night can be deadly, so it is important for the health and safety of your elderly loved one that there is a professional caregiver who can assist them during the night while they are going to the washroom.


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