Tips & Advice if Your Loved One is Self-Sufficient

The person I care for can wash and dress themselves. They sometimes just cannot control their bladder.

De-dramatize the situation.

Of course it can be embarrassing for your loved one to lose control and have accidents, but it shouldn't lead them to withdraw from social contact and activities, unnecessarily reducing their enjoyment of life. Talking with them about their situation in an honest yet understanding way will help them realize that incontinence doesn't have to radically change their life. And with the right incontinence products and lifestyle tips they can continue enjoying their normal social activities without fear of embarrassment.

Reassure them that they are not the only person with incontinence.

Incontinence is actually very common. In fact, 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 8 men experience it at some point in their lives. For women this makes it as common as hay fever. There are many causes; it is just one of those physical things that happen to some people both young and old.

Look and see if a few simple lifestyle changes can make a positive difference

Fluid intake.

Your loved one may be tempted to drink less, but this can make the urine more concentrated, aggravating the bladder and making it more active. Encourage them to drink as normal, responding to their natural thirst. This should be enough to keep the urine a healthy, pale straw color. As you might expect, drinking too much will just increase the urge to 'go', so just try and keep a healthy balance.

Be aware that some drinks have a diuretic effect.

Of course you don't want to curb your loved one's pleasures, but be aware that caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks are diuretics that will make them need to visit the bathroom more.

Work together to create the right environment.

Your loved one may appreciate an unobstructed route to the bathroom, so they can get to the toilet quickly when necessary. They may also prefer clothing that is easy to remove, such as wide skirts and drawstring trousers. Giving them their own laundry basket could be a big help too, so they can keep their laundry in one place and feel more in control. Keep a lidded trash can in the bathroom or bedroom to dispose of used incontinence products.

Out and about

Make sure they have a spare product and plastic bag for the disposal of a used incontinence product in their bag or coat pocket. Arrange for a seat near the bathroom on trains and planes, and ensure car or coach drivers plan regular bathroom stops on long journeys.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

If your loved one has Stress Incontinence they may want to see if they can improve control with pelvic floor exercises. This kind of physiotherapy is generally regarded as the first treatment for Stress Incontinence. Up to 70% of mild to moderate cases can be improved or even cured by regular and correct pelvic floor exercises over 3 to 6 months, but remember, they will have to keep up the exercises to make the effects last. These exercises work by re-establishing control over the muscles that keep the urethra shut.

It's never too late to start – even people in their 70s and 80s have improved their symptoms. Click here to download a step-by-step guide to pelvic floor exercises.

A specialist may recommend techniques such as Biofeedback and electrical stimulation to help carry out these exercises properly.

Medical Devices

Where physiotherapy is not the answer, there are certain other options the doctor may consider. The insertion of a catheter with a portable drainage bag may be a temporary measure, particularly if incontinence is the result of surgery. The most commonly used medical devices are absorbent incontinence products.  There are protective products for light and heavy incontinence for men and women that come in a range of sizes and absorbency levels, and different types to suit different preferences and lifestyles. They are also available with odour neutralizers so your loved one needn't worry about tell-tale odours or damp patches when friends visit or they are invited out.

Drugs and surgery

In some countries there are certain prescription drugs used for the treatment of Stress Incontinence, and in some cases your urologist or gynaecologist may consider surgical procedures. For details on these it is best to consult a continence specialist or urologist.

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