Tips on coping with incontinence
Incontinence is a difficult subject to bring up. But if you can talk about it, there are plenty of ways you can help someone dealing with its challenges.
By Ryan Jones
Some of the challenges our relatives face as they grow older are easy to talk about, and others are far harder.
The ideal path is to support them in keeping safe and healthy while still showing respect for their wishes.
If they begin to find walking difficult, we can find ways to avoid falls while being mobile in their home. With memory loss often occurring, we can make things easier in many ways, such as preparing meals for them.
Some health issues are much more difficult to deal with though. One in particular which is difficult to speak about is incontinence.
A high proportion of people later in life suffer from incontinence issues. It might be down to illness or due to medication or a poor lifestyle.
Here are some things you can do to help a relative be more comfortable and avoid embarrassment.
Seek help from the GP
While incontinence is common amongst older people, it’s quite possible that there might be something else going on which has caused the incontinence.
Infections can, for example, cause urinary problems and difficulties with going to the toilet. Antibiotics will often clear the infection and help to ease the pressure. There is also medication that can be offered to reduce incontinence.
Or it might be that lifestyle changes can make a difference. The GP might encourage your relative to drink regularly and eat a proper diet.
So going to the GP will help to go through the possible treatment options. If your relative needs to talk to someone, the doctor will recommend therapists who they can talk to about what they are experiencing to help them to move forward.
Make home changes to help them
When an elderly relative is dealing with incontinence, some home changes can make all the difference to their situation. For instance, you might want to help them move into a bedroom which is closer to the bathroom. That way, they can get to the bathroom more easily when they need to go to the toilet. Handrails between rooms and in the bathroom could also be useful.
Alternatively, you could look at investing in a commode for your relative. That way, they can go to the toilet easily especially if they are less mobile.
Getting out and about
Incontinence can stop people getting out to do the things they enjoy, like visiting friends, shopping, or going to a club.
If they are going out, the best way you can support them is by planning ahead. Check where the toilets are and tell your relative so they know where they can use the toilet during the day.
If they’re going visiting, then letting friends and family know in advance can help to prevent accidents. It’s also a good idea for them to take spare clothes when leaving home and make sure they are wearing light-weight clothing so they can change easily if they need to when out.
When someone is dealing with incontinence in their daily life, they might not want to leave their home due to embarrassment. They worry they won’t reach the toilet in time or will leak when outside of their home.
Incontinence products can help to ease that worry. Whether this is an incontinence pad or a pair of pants they can dispose of after use, these will ensure your relative can leave the house and carry on with their normal activities.
Experience shows that they may be resistant to the idea at first. It’s best, therefore, to deal with the situation delicately, and explain to them why this is a good way forward.
Ryan Jones is a member of the Hartmann Direct team, a leading UK supplier of products for those experiencing incontinence issues.
When They Get Older adds:
When we had a visitor who seemed to be unaware of – or possibly not bothered by – their incontinence, we found the following ideas useful.
- Washable cushions and covers on the seats that we quietly encouraged them to use
- Something similar for the back seat of the car
- Spare clothes available for accident days
- A washing machine primed and ready to go
- And really important, a continuing sense of humour in a difficult situation
And it’s worth taking a look at the Great British Public Toilet Map before you go out. We tested it here and it was pretty accurate – although it depends on the great British public updating it!