Recognizing the signs of prostate trouble can help caregivers provide loved ones with a better quality of life.

Caregiver strategies to deal with the challenges men under care face

An estimated 17 million men suffer from an enlarged prostate, including around 50 percent of men when they reach age 60 according to the American Urological Association (AUA). Although the symptoms and challenges of an enlarged prostate are numerous, they can be managed independently as well as from a caregivers role.

A male reproductive gland, the prostate is often termed benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or benign prostatic hypertrophy when it becomes enlarged. While not cancer, it is an extremely common condition that causes the prostate gland to grow larger. As the prostate enlarges, it puts pressure on the urethra, thus affecting a persons urinary flow. The likelihood of this condition increases with age; the AUA reports that it affects more than 90 percent of men by the age of 85, making it an issue that many caregivers will encounter with men under their care.

The actual source of prostate enlargement is not known, and not every male with an enlarged prostate experiences symptoms. However, the signs of those affected include difficulty with urination, specifically:

  • Inability to urinate, dribbling at the end of urination, not completely emptying the bladder, urinating two or more times at night, painful urination or incontinence.
  • Slow or lingering start to the urinary stream, anemic urine stream, laboring to urinate and an intense or immediate urge to urinate.

When providing care for someone, you may notice the symptoms and be able to present these findings during the doctors visit in the event the individual is unable to discuss this independently. A complete medical exam will determine if they are due to an enlarged prostate and not another condition. Living with these symptoms can be devastating to an individuals quality of life.

Men that have an active work and social life find that dealing with urinary complications is a strain both emotionally and physically. Likewise, providing care for an individual with an enlarged prostate is a challenge.

Some interventions a caregiver can help facilitate to minimize mild symptoms of BPH include:

  • Taking care of your loved one by having them avoid caffeine and alcohol, particularly after dinner
  • Spreading their fluid intake throughout the day rather than letting them drink a large amount of fluids at once
  • Arranging for them to urinate when the urge first strikes, including taking them to the bathroom at scheduled intervals
  • Supplying a disposable incontinence product/pad for them if dribbling or incontinence is present. Products specific for urinary incontinence are discreet, thin and can be worn with regular undergarments
  • Checking with their physician to see if certain medications such as over-the-counter cold and sinus medications may be contributing to an increase in their symptoms

Although a common condition in men as they age, an enlarged prostate can have a profound effect on an individuals daily routine. Men should know the signs of BPH, consult with their physicians and implement uniform strategies with the aid of a caregiver to minimize the symptoms and enhance their quality of life.

Michele Mongillo, RN, MSN, is a clinical director who has over 20 years of nursing experience in a variety of settings including acute care, head/ spinal cord injury rehabilitation and long-term care.