Aging is a natural part of life and at one point or another, you or someone you may know may have to take care of someone with urinary incontinence. There are various emotional and social issues that may arise during this time. Here are some useful tips to consider when living with or assisting a person that struggles with incontinence.
Starting An Honest Conversation with Kindness and Understanding
Often times, we may find ourselves struggling to find the courage to be honest. It’s normal and most individuals would rather deal with something than bring something up only to face the fears of possible confrontation, backlash, or any other unwanted situation. But to be truthful, there are ways to start an honest, open conversation that can be helpful to someone dealing with incontinence.
- Think about and write down your concerns on a piece of paper
- Ask yourself some questions such as:
- How does this situation make me feel?
- How can I bring up my feelings without offending anyone?
- What resources can I provide to help them deal with incontinence?
- After you have identified some of the key issues, think about what you want to say to that person and provide some helpful, encouraging words of support
- “Hey, I noticed you had wet the chair the other day. I understand this may be an uncomfortable situation, but I am here for you and can offer as much support as I can.”
- Do some research for resources or supplies that may help someone cope with incontinence
- SPC offers quality underpads, panty liners, adult diapers, and other incontinence supplies that can help absorb liquids and reduce odor
- Assist the person dealing with incontinence in seeking out medical attention and ways to cope with their incontinence
- Research natural, subtle ways to freshen a room and eliminate unwanted odors (i.e. using an essential oils diffuser, opening windows and having air circulate, having a scented wall plug, using candles, washing clothes with a mild detergent with a fresh scent)
- Research other helpful products such as wipes, trash bags, extra pairs of underwear, etc. that can make life easier especially when in public
- Prepare yourself before sitting down to have the conversation
- Have the conversation and make sure to follow up with the person if they have any questions or need extra resources
Dealing with Resistance, Embarrassment, and Negative Reactions
Other times, a situation may not turn out as well as we had hoped. Talking about incontinence is a difficult topic and may make someone feel like it’s personal and invading their privacy. If someone resists your advice, you will need to be prepared and know how to react in a supporting way. Resistance can be expressed through anger, passive inaction, denial, and refusal to do something they might be opposed to. For example, someone may refuse to use incontinence products because they feel that they are still capable of living without them even though they might be having more leaks than usual. This type of reaction expresses feelings associated loss of dignity which is often a touchy topic for some. They might also feel embarrassed and frustrated that they are causing issues with something they cannot entirely control.
Tip: Having a calm and honest conversation regarding your feelings and also eliminating the stigma against using incontinence products can help ease someone’s reaction against acceptance. Never say something that is offensive and hurtful to another person. Don’t be rude. Instead, be understanding and do your best to research ways on helping them out.
In other instances, it might be embarrassing and frustrating to care and deal with issues involving incontinence. It might become inconvenient or unpleasant to always have to clean up after someone and smell foul odors. It can also get in the way of schedules and cause more tasks arounds the house. This can take a mental and physical toll on caregivers and also strain the relationship between you and the person you are caring for.
Tip: If it becomes too hard to take care of someone, there is always the option to ask for help from another family member, friend, professional, or caregiver. There are a variety of options available for individuals that are aging and may also face other diseases such as dementia, which is resulting to their incontinence. You can also receive support from the community, health centers, support groups, and other resources that are available.
Prioritizing Your Own Wellbeing and Setting Boundaries
Let’s be honest. Taking care of someone with incontinence is not a simple task. It involves countless hours cleaning and comforting someone that may be feeling embarrassed and saddened by their loss of control over urinary leaks or spills. You may also have other things on your schedule and may find it inconvenient to always have to clean up after someone. Life can also take its toll and you have your own problems to deal with. Remember, it is essential to take care of yourself. If you feel mentally or emotionally drained, it is a sign to take a step back and reach out for help.
Boundaries -- it’s important to have them and set limitations as to what you can and cannot do. For example, if you find yourself unable to lift or carry the person you are looking after, it’s time to hire someone that can. Your health is important too and you wouldn’t want to injure yourself.
Time spent doing laundry, cleaning up the bathroom floor, or bathing the person you are looking after may take away time from your schedule. Not getting enough sleep and not being able to function is not good habit and can lead to exhaustion. Setting boundaries can help you maintain somewhat of a balance. Again, if you find that you can no longer do everything on your own, reach out to a health professional to develop a plan to find a caregiver, residential care, home health, or nursing facility that can assist. If this is not a viable option at the moment, reach out to a friend or family member for help. You can always ask for advice and recommendations as to how to deal with caring for someone with urinary incontinence.