Talking About Incontinence
Getting the Conversation Started
It's taboo, it's awkward, it's the elephant in the room: Incontinence. Yet if someone you love has it, you'll have to bring it up sooner or later. But it doesn't have to be an uncomfortable word. It's all in how you frame the issue.
While it may at first seem like a murky area to venture into, the bright side is that you've got a lot working in your favor — from the fact that adult incontinence is not uncommon, to the likelihood that your loved one is aware of the issue but embarrassed to mention it without a gentle nudge. Those newly experiencing unexpected leaks may not be aware of the many options to help them carry on with a full and fearless life. And after all, the whole point of having "the talk" is to find a solution, whether it's a doctor's visit to get to the root cause, setting up a bathroom schedule to beat the leak, or finding the perfect personal care product to ensure comfort, confidence and carefree living.
Don't Put Off the Talk
If you know leaks are interfering in your loved one's life, don't wait to have the conversation. Ignoring the problem doesn't make it go away and can actually make the initial discussion that much harder, as anticipation grows. And remember, the sooner you say something, the sooner your loved one will be feeling free again.
Consider Your Loved One's Feelings
Embarrassment, frustration, guilt: These are completely natural emotions for someone who has been having accidents. And no one ever expects it to happen to them. So before you dive into a dialogue with your loved one, first consider how she might be feeling. Understanding her mind-set about the situation can aid you in choosing an angle or approach to help her master her challenges — or at least in having that first one-on-one chat.
Choose an approach.
Since you're the one bringing up the topic, it's on you to set the tone of conversation. It's normal to be embarrassed, but if you're feeling awkward, then your loved one is going to respond in a similar way. On the other hand, if you're fearless in facing the facts — as well as the possible solutions — then your optimism will help your loved one feel secure and in control. There are a number of approaches you can take, so choose one that best suits the situation. Possible approaches include:
Choose a focus of the conversation.
Choosing a focal point can center the conversation and lighten any feelings of blame or indignity that the person you care for might be experiencing. No matter your approach, make sure your loved one knows that you are there for her — you both want back the control that allows her to live comfortably and worry free. Suggestions include:
Choose a conversation starter
Breaking the ice is the hardest part, so if it helps, prepare yourself with a one-liner to lead with. Once the unspeakable is spoken, each subsequent conversation will be easier. For example:
"I can tell you've been feeling bad about how often we've had to change the sheets lately. It upsets me to see you feel that way. Did you know there are overnight briefs you can wear to help"
"Speaking of dinner plans, I’ve noticed you've been declining invitations lately. If it's because you're worried about having an accident, we can do something about it — there's usually a medical reason, so there's no reason you have to give up the things you love doing."
"So, you know that ad we just watched for personal care products? I'm thinking you might audition at the next casting call. Your face would look fabulous on-screen. Seriously, though, the commercials exist because it's something a lot of people deal with."
Keep the Conversation Going
Deciding together on a plan will help get your loved one on a path to a solution and set the stage for follow-up conversations. Your loved one will need your support and encouragement as she navigates this new lifestyle. Once you have broken the ice the first time, it will be easier to talk about it down the road. Possible steps in managing communication include the following:
Step 1: Gather Information
Your loved one’s health care provider may ask questions about symptoms to determine the type of incontinence and the treatment plan:
Friends and other caregivers can provide support as you do your research. Ask, for example, how did others approach the subject of incontinence with those needing care? Which products worked best for certain situations? Are there any recommended resources? Blogs, discussion boards for caregivers and product reviews are a great additional resource if you want to ask questions anonymously or if you would like to hear additional perspectives. In addition, providing input and sharing your own story may help alleviate the stress that can lead to caregiver burnout.
Request and try product trial kits. Get your loved one signed up right away. Free trials can be shipped discreetly to her home in just days. Make sure your loved one tries on several products for comparison.
Ask her, for example:
Step 2: Put a Plan in Place Together
“ It took me a long time to find a pad I really like. I have had urinary incontinence for years and feel most comfortable with this pad. It does not "bulk up", as some others do. ”
- TENA® Customer in Halifax, Nova Scotia