By Trudy Wilson
Ozcare Continence Nurse Advisor
Growing up can be hard at the best of times for kids, but our current generation of youngsters are growing up in very uncertain times. Our littlies really have endured a lot of bad news and challenges some adults have never faced.
What impact it will have on them in years to come is not fully known. But a sign they may be struggling right now is the onset of bed-wetting. When it happens, it can be a really big issue for them and their families. This week is World Continence Week (June 15-22).
Incontinence is a leading reason for seniors entering residential aged care in Australia. But it is also an issue faced by over 200,000 children in Australia each year. Bedwetting affects approximately 19 per cent of children aged five to 12. And the data shows that it is often a signpost for incontinence issues later in life.
It is a problem that will cost Australian governments $450 million to fix this year, according to Deloitte Access Economics. They estimate 4.8 million Australians are living with incontinence and that is set to increase to 6.4 million in the next 10 years.
I have been a continence nurse advisor at Ozcare for over 16 years and have worked with hundreds of families to get their kids dry at night. I oversee a small team of other continence nurse advisors in Ozcare’s Dry Bed Program. Our program has run for 25 years and takes us into schools on the Gold Coast to raise awareness about bed-wetting.
We’ve learnt a lot in that time about the best ways to handle it. But it is the joy on the faces of the little ones who succeed in staying dry that brings us the greatest joy. It is their little faces that show they are so pleased once they have finished. They know they can have sleep overs and school camp. It is really rewarding and we get so many comments from parents who say how wonderful it is and how much it has changed their family.
You may take a child to the toilet before they go to bed but chances are it won't work. As they get older, the pull-ups become less absorbent so they often have very wet beds. Ozcare’s program is for children from six but we have even had 18-year-olds who have done the program.
It is not one particular issue in every case. It can be fluid intake, a small bladder capacity, the hormones in body that regulate the kidneys or emotional trauma. Mostly, it is because fluid intake is not enough and they often drink at the wrong time of the day.
Children are busy at school and come home and they are thirsty so they are loading their bodies up at the wrong time of the day. They have to take responsibility for drinking. They have to drink one water bottle and refill it and drink it during the day at school.
Each year, we help about 50 children through our program on the Gold Coast. We’ve found, it takes approximately four to six months on average to get dry. We’re proud of our success – for those we have surveyed two years after the program, 87 per cent have managed to stay dry.
We know that some children will get dry on their own, so they don’t have to do our program, but they are more likely to be dry after going on the program.
- It is a misconception that bed wetting is about immaturity, laziness, bad behaviour, rebelliousness or drinking after dinner
- In fact, bedwetting is caused by: the inability of a child to awaken to a full bladder / an overactive bladder at night / an inability to store urine / or kidneys that make a large amount of urine at night and a bladder that cannot hold it
Signs your child needs help:
- A dry child suddenly starts to wet the bed
- They are wetting the bed and are school aged
- They are upset or angry by wetting the bed
- They want to become dry
How you can help your child:
- The commitment from the child is the key to success
- Their fluid intake needs to be adequate for their age and their bladder capacity – you need to have those both aligned (The Dry Bed Program measures bladder capacity by tracking input /output on a chart for two days to get a baseline. A small child should be drinking at least 800ml a day /1500ml for a 12-year-old and above. Activity after school is taken into account. One glass of water of no more than 200ml with dinner is recommended)
- They can use the mat with the alarm
- Drugs are available for short term like sleepover or school camps that reduce the amount of urine produced overnight by the kidneys
What to remember:
- It is not your child’s fault they are wetting the bed
- Bedwetting is embarrassing for kids and can lead to low self esteem
- There are other costs like sleep disturbance for both parents and children and the costs of laundry
- Most children will by dry during the day by the time they turn three and dry at night by the time they reach school or Grade 1
What the data shows:
- There are a higher incidence of boys to girl (anecdotally it doesn’t seem to worry them as much / they are a bit more complacent)
- A child is a 40-50 per cent of having problems if one parent wet the bed in childhood / then 70-80 per cent chance if both parents did so
For more information on our services or accessing a service in your area, contact 1800 Ozcare.