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Alzheimer's disease, stress incontinence

Created date

February 21st, 2017
Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. This month our expert is Dr. Myla Carpenter.

Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. This month our expert is Dr. Myla Carpenter.

Please note: The following questions were submitted by readers. The answers are intended for your general information and should not replace a doctor’s medical advice.

Q. My 77-year-old husband has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease. We want to find a clinical trial that is testing new treatments. What’s the best way to proceed? 

A. People join clinical trials, or research studies, for several reasons, including seeking new treatments. While clinical trials are for the most part safe—approved and monitored by an Institutional Review Board—there can still be risks. New treatments might have unknown and serious side effects. Your husband could be assigned to a control group (the group that is not receiving the new treatment), or the study may take up too much time or require a hospital stay. 

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), there is a need for people with Alzheimer’s disease to join clinical trials. To find one specifically on Alzheimer’s disease, call the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (1-800-438-4380). Comprehensive information about clinical trials can be found on the NIA’s website (, and you can also log onto to find studies on practically any disease or condition. Be sure to tell your doctor because he or she may want to talk to the study investigators to ensure the trial will be safe for your husband.

Q. What is the best way to deal with stress incontinence? 

A. Stress incontinence is very common among older women. It can be caused by physical changes that occur because of previous pregnancy and childbirth, weakening of pelvic floor muscles, or weakening of the urethra. The best treatment is usually multifactorial, consisting of behavioral and lifestyle changes. The type of beverages you drink can make a difference—avoid caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks. Limiting how much you drink is not a good idea until you talk to your doctor first. Cutting back too much can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous for seniors

If nighttime urination is a problem, stop drinking several hours before bed—as long as you get sufficient fluids during the day. Bladder training works for some people, and there are specially trained professionals who can teach you. Another strategy that has shown significant promise is exercising your pelvic floor muscles. 

For people who don’t respond to conservative measures, there are other treatments, including medical devices, injections of bulking agents, or surgery. Please talk to your doctor about the best way to treat your stress incontinence.

Dr. Myla Carpenter, is the senior medical director at Charlestown. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and her medical degree from the University of California’s Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento, Calif. She completed her residency in internal medicine at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. Board certified in internal medicine, she joined Charlestown in July 1996.