Incontinence is a common condition affecting approximately 13 million Americans (possibly more because many of those living with it may feel shame, embarrassment or anxiety, and do not feel comfortable discussing the topic). It is estimated that the 70% of people with incontinence don’t seek help for their problem. Needing help and being vulnerable is something that is hard to accept for many people, especially those who have played the role of caregiver throughout their lifetime, making it even more difficult to accept care for themselves. Discussing incontinence is still considered taboo, which can also lead to people hiding their symptoms and not receiving the proper care they need. The subject is often left ignored because the discomfort when it comes to broaching the topic can feel almost paralyzing. As your loved one grows older, you will be faced with many tough conversations. Preparing yourself on what to say, how to communicate it and when to talk about it is imperative to a successful discussion and helpful end results. But before you say anything, think carefully. Understand your role as caretaker and/or advocate. It is you and your loved one working to find the correct solution for them. Understand that the first step might not be immediately putting your loved one into adult incontinence product, but instead speaking with a physician to help get clarification and professional recommendations on how to manage their level of incontinence.
Learning to recognize the signs of incontinence is one of the first steps in managing it. There are a few changes you may notice in the demeanor of your loved one or other tell-tale signs of incontinence. You may notice:
- Odor of urine or feces
- Soiled clothing or bed linen
- Unusually/uncharacteristically large amount of laundry
- Accidents that didn’t happen before when laughing or sneezing or doing physical activities
- Less engagement in social activities
- Depression or anger
- Leaving the house less due to a fear of having an accident
- More frequent trips to the restroom
- Changes in clothing – seniors may try to hide accidents or ill-fitting incontinence products by wearing oversized clothing
Once you’ve identified some symptoms and signs of incontinence, it is time to bring up the subject of incontinence with your loved one.
Do not be accusatory. Be a confidant and offer yourself as someone who can offer support, and who is willing to help with anything they need. Initial conversations may not end with the ideal outcome and may end in denial, but it’s important to start the conversation and hope that they will eventually let you know when they need help. Encourage them to speak to their doctor so that you can try to figure out the cause of incontinence – it may be associated with a medical condition, a medication side effect, or other variable factors. Also, encourage your loved one to talk to others too. As mentioned before, incontinence is not a rare condition and your loved one is not alone or the only one living with it. The National Association for Continence created message boards to offer a safe space from a supportive community where you can talk anonymously, ask questions, and connect with others.
Finding Treatment, Together
Incontinence products are not a one-size-fits-all type of product. There are a wide range of styles, shapes, absorbencies and uses. For example, Attends offers a variety of products to help you find your ideal fit for what you need. And yet, up to 80% of people with incontinence are wearing the wrong incontinence product and many people try seven or more products before finding one that works. Do not give up on your search for the right product, if one doesn’t work don’t become discouraged or succumb to thinking that this is the life you’ve been destined to live with incontinence. First, users need to understand how and why different products are used for different severities and activities. For instance, a typical daytime, discreet underwear product may not be sufficient enough to cover leaks overnight which require a product with significantly more absorption. Secondly, it’s normal to use many different products over time as conditions change. If you suspect your loved has incontinence due to signs or symptoms noted above, remember to broach the topic with empathy and don’t be discouraged or frustrated if it takes multiple conversations before your loved one opens up to discuss the situation with you. Once they’re comfortable, be their advocate and support system when talking to doctors and try to normalize incontinence. Finally, encourage them to find the best product for them that works to give them back their comfort, confidence and dignity.
Having incontinence does not have to impair your normal lifestyle, but having a conversation around incontinence is the first (and hardest step) towards being able to return to your usual life. It may be uncomfortable at first but your loved one will ultimately be glad that you did! And together you can come up with a solution that works for everyone.
To learn more about Attends products or to request a free product sample, please visit attends.com or call 1-833-269-4347.