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Managing Incontinence with Grace and Dignity

(Editor’s Note: On a regular basis, we run sponsored content which features products and services which can help during a caregiving experience. We thank Tye Medical for its generous support of CareGiving.com.)

Support of the elderly

The role of a caregiver can be a difficult one, especially when incontinence is involved. Studies show that incontinence is among one of the top reasons that families give up on home care and place a loved one in an institutional nursing facility. 

First, let’s review some common myths surrounding incontinence.

Myth #1 – Incontinence is a normal part of aging, especially in women.

While it is true that changes occur in our bodies as we age which make older adults, particularly women, more likely to experience incontinence, it should not be considered a normal or inevitable part of the aging process.

Myth #2 – Nothing can be done to treat incontinence.

After a diagnosis is made, a treatment for elderly urinary incontinence can include behavioral therapy, medications, medical devices, and surgery. Incontinence is 100 percent treatable and most of the time a solution is non-surgical. 

Myth #3  Drinking less fluid will improve urinary incontinence.

It is a misconception that by reducing fluid intake, less urine will be produced. Limiting fluids leads to more concentrated urine which irritates the bladder and can produce more problems. 

Emotional and Social Challenges

As a caregiver, you may feel a sense of shame not only for yourself but also for the care receiver. Caring for someone, like your parent, in this very personal and often invasive way can be very difficult. If you are caring for someone of the opposite sex, it can be awkward having to see, touch and care for their private areas. If you are caring for a parent of the same sex, it may still feel like you’re invading their privacy.

It is important to have compassion for the loss of dignity felt by a loved one who needs care at this level. To follow are ten strategies that will help.

10 Strategies to Manage Incontinence with Grace and Dignity:

  1. Bathroom Basics. Create a safe and functional bathroom environment. Consider installing a raised toilet seat or grab bars so you’re loved one has an easier time raising and lowering themselves. Ensure the bathroom is well lit and there aren’t any obstacles between the door and the toilet. Ask if you can help but be sure to respect privacy as much as possible. Freely giving that respect can restore some dignity to your loved one.
  2. Avoid “Potty Talk”. When speaking about incontinence issues avoid using childlike terms like “potty”. Instead, use normal adult language like “toilet” and “restroom” to keep the communication respectful.
  3. Wardrobe Makeover. Examine common articles of clothing. Replace tight-fitting, complicated pieces with loose garments. Elastic and Velcro closures will be much easier to handle compared to buttons and zippers. Shopping for new, easy to manage clothing can be an enjoyable experience.
  4. Consider Protective Undergarments. Patients may want to avoid bladder leakage products because using them escalates a feeling of helplessness. Try to find protective undergarments that look as much like regular underwear as possible. Leak protection, comfort, fit and absorbency are all factors to consider when purchasing adult incontinence products.
  5. Begin a Food Diary. Review your loved one’s diet. Do they consume alcohol, carbonated drinks, milk, citrus, tomatoes, chocolate, spicy foods or caffeine? Each of these exacerbate incontinence. Limiting these foods can help curtail episodes. A food diary is a helpful tool to monitor what other kinds of food may trigger incontinence episodes.
  6. Maintain Healthy Skin. Make sure you have on hand gentle, fragrance-free cleansers. It’s very important to keep your loved one’s skin clean and dry, especially after an accident. 
  7. Stick to a Schedule. Frequent and planned visits to the bathroom will help your loved one avoid soiling themselves and can assist with bladder retraining. Consider starting with every two hours and extending to every three if the patient can manage.
  8. Be Tactful. Wearing incontinence products daily may make a person feel that they are no longer capable of taking care of themselves at a primal level. Their response to you might be one of denial, anger, refusal, or passive inaction. It is important to talk with your loved one in a calm, understanding, and honest way about how their incontinence is affecting you and your ability to provide the best possible care for them. 
  9. Stay Positive. A key marker for all healthy relationships is good communication. Be gentle and non-judgmental with the care receiver. Communicate why you are doing what you are doing and care not to patronize.
  10. Ask for Help. Caregivers need help too! Seek out support groups in-person or online. Don’t be afraid to ask for product recommendations, advice or encouragement.

Incontinence doesn’t have to negatively impact a person’s quality of life or cause them to feel any undue embarrassment or stress. In most cases, it’s a topic that can be managed successfully by caregivers.

With a little bit of preparation, education, communication, and compassion, you’ll be well prepared to handle incontinence with grace and dignity.

Tye Medical is the maker of LivDry Incontinence Products. Our incontinence products are perfect for individuals looking for the best overall fit, loved ones looking after their aging family members, adult caregivers and assisted living facilities. Contact us today for more information or to order free samples. 

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About Denise

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched CareGiving.com in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

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