Discussions about incontinence can be difficult for many people. As a society, we have become accustomed to discreet independent voiding, this skill is learnt at an early age as part of our socialisation “potty training”. The loss of this ability can have a significant physical, emotional and mental affects. Hence, people find it embarrassing to discuss with family, friends and even their health care professionals. Many people feel ashamed and others just write it off as an accepted part of aging.
Yes, incontinence is common amongst adults. Incontinence is also treatable and is not something that people just need to accept. Incontinence can be managed with treatment and quality incontinence pads.
The knowledge that incontinence can be managed helps to remove the stigma to talk about it.
Setting up the conversation
Having a successful conversation with your loved one about incontinence should always begin with careful planning around what you what to discuss and what is your final goal with this conversation. The most important thing you can do to help someone is understand their condition. Take time to learn about incontinence symptoms, causes and how it can affect day to day people who are trying to manage it. You can find more information on NHS - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/urinary-incontinence/
You might be tempted to wait until your loved one brings up the topic. It might be better to initiate the conversation. Basic understanding of what is incontinence and what causes it will enable you to respond sensitively while offering right support to your loved one.
One does needs to remember to stay calm and relaxed when talking about incontinence. Incontinence can be an embarrassing topic, it is easy to get defensive or feel nervous when talking about it.
Always find a place in your home or your loved ones home that is comfortable and relaxing. Incontinence can have a considerable effect on a person’s emotional and mental health. Try not to make light of the subject when your loved opens up to you about their condition. Give them plenty of reassurance that you are there to help them with any incontinence situation.
Talking about continence and any other medical condition that the personal might be managing will help boost your loved ones confidence and ensure them they are not alone.
Listen Patiently to their concerns
Make sure you listen to your loved one and be there to help them however they need it. Pay attention to their words, tone and gestures. They might repeat themselves whilst sharing their concerns with you.
While travelling with your loved one you can help them relax by letting them know that you are happy to stop and wait at any services or public toilet for them. This will help them be comfortable and enjoy their time with you rather than focusing on their bladder.
Encouraging your loved one to talk about incontinence can help them feel that they are not alone in managing their continence. The idea is to normalize incontinence it is not a disease it is just a symptom.
Encourage them to ask questions
Keep an open dialogue and allow your loved one to ask as many questions as possible. The more informed you will be about their condition you will be able to find them solutions to help them. The more they talk about their continence concerns they better they will feel. Let them know that incontinence is not ruling their life and that they can manage it with right guidance from a healthcare professionals and/or right continence products.
Example of some of the questions you can ask your loved ones:
- Do you leak urine suddenly when you cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise?
- How do you feel about managing continence on your own?
- Please let me know how can I help you?
- How often do you feel the uncontrollable urge to pass urine?
- Does the need to urinate at night cause you to wake up multiple times during the night? How often does that happen?
- Are you using any incontinence pads and are they helping you?
- Have you discussed with your GP or any healthcare professional that you are having issues with your bladder / bowel?
- Have you had an accident when you have lifted something heavy?
- Is the amount of urine you are leaking usually small?
- Do you ever feel a sudden and very intense need to pass urine?
- Do you sometimes leak before you get to the toilet?
- Does the sound of running water make you pass urine?
- Have you been suffering from any emotional stress?
- Does anything you are eating or drinking contribute to you feeling you are loosing control of your bladder / bowel?
Those who try to manage incontinence on their own often do so in silence for many years prior to seeking help. This is unnecessary as there are many options to manage incontinence which will help your loved ones to live an active and independent life.
Raising the subject of continence with a loved one may be difficult at first but with the right approach you can make them aware that you are there to support them. Talking to you will help them handle continence with confidence knowing that you are supporting them.
The more often you discuss about incontinence, the more comfortable your loved one will feel about disclosing any challenges they might be experiencing. Sure, the first conversation may feel awkward, but familiarity comes with ease and incontinence can eventually be discussed more as a mater—of-fact. Encourage your loved one to get the support they need. Help them have conversations with their GP or healthcare professionals.
With the right guidance from GP / a healthcare professional or using the right incontinence pads you can keep doing the things you love with ease whether is it going for walks, hiking, swimming etc.