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Tips for travelling with incontinence

travelling with incontinence when older

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Travelling with urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence or double incontinence can be stressful.  You have no certainty that you can get to the bathroom in time when you don’t know where that bathroom might be.  The thought of leaving your home and facilities might be too much, stopping you from taking that journey that you want and deserve.

Let’s explore some of the steps you can take to help you go on that holiday or visit that family member.

Be sure of your route

If you are travelling by car, you should choose your path based on the regularity of service stations.  You can ask Google maps to highlight all potential toilet stops.  You may not need every break, but the certainty will give you the confidence to travel.

You can do the same in airport terminals.  Make your first act the discovery of the terminal toilets and plan your wait nearest these rooms.

Choose your clothes carefully

If you struggle with incontinence, you know more than most that you need to dress sensibly.  You need to be comfortable, but you also need to be able to undress with ease.

You may also want to plan for the worst.  The chance of an accident will be an ever-present threat.  Consequently, wearing incontinence protection such as a liner, an absorbent pad or disposable underwear.  If the trip is a long one, you want to know that you are prepared for all situations. What if there is a traffic jam or an unexpected delay away from a bathroom.

Plan food and drink intake

When you know you are going on a long journey, you may want to limit your food and drink consumption – or time this so that you will need a toilet within a set time.  The problems on a plane can be more challenging.  The change in cabin pressure and the tightness of the seat belt can cause difficulties with urinary incontinence especially.  If you are taking off, landing or taxiing, you will not be able to leave your seats.  Therefore, making sure you drink carefully before a flight is an essential step to take.

Equally, as you fly, you might want to give the alcohol trolley a miss – as well as diuretics such as tea or coffee.  Drinking plain water is the best choice for your bladder.  It is also a long-term healthier choice for your bowel.

Pack a day bag

For your peace of mind, you need a plan b.  You need another set of clothes should an accident happen.  Carrying a day back with extra pants and other garments, as well as additional incontinence products, will help you travel with confidence.

Then, especially if you are travelling abroad, pack your main bags with additional items that can help you in emergencies.  You may want to pack a plastic sheet, especially if you are staying at a friend’s home or in a hotel. You can also get disposable underpads, known as chux, to keep chairs and mattresses dry.

Aisle is better

Ask the steward if you can have the aisle seat when you board a flight or if travelling on a train.  You will dread the journey if you have to ask your neighbour to let you past regularly so that you can go to the bathroom.  It is not that you have no right to ask for a bathroom break; it is just that you do not want to signal to the whole compartment that you may have toilet-based issues.  A polite conversation should help you if there is no allocated seating – otherwise, you will need to arrive early, so you get the first choice.

Medication may help

Some drugs help specifically with urge incontinence.  This is the incontinence that occurs because you suddenly need to go to the bathroom, with little warning.  Faecal incontinence can be managed on the day of travel with such medication.  However, urinary incontinence will need some planning. Drugs can take a few weeks to take on their full therapeutic effect – therefore, you will need to start taking them well before your departure date.

Learn the language that will get you to the room

If you are going abroad, there is a simple tip that may never occur to you.  If you are going to France, Spain, Germany or further afield – do you know how to say: “Where is the toilet?”  Five minutes with a guidebook and practising with a friend could save you a lot of embarrassment when you are away from home.


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