Caring for someone with incontinence
Caring for a relative, partner, adult child or friend can be immensely rewarding, but can also be very stressful. The Carers Victoria website lists the contributing factors as:
- The physical and emotional demands
- Feeling like you don’t have a choice
- Conflict and frustration with your care recipient and other family members
- Lack of support
On top of this, if you’re also dealing daily with multiple incontinent episodes, you could understandably be feeling exhausted, impatient and underappreciated.
Spare a thought too, for the person experiencing incontinence who may be deeply embarrassed by their condition, as well as upset that they’re the cause of so much work.
For both your sakes, it’s vital to ensure that firstly, the underlying cause has been identified by a healthcare professional. In some cases, there may be remedial approaches that could improve or even resolve the problem. And in those instances where it will be on-going, ensuring you have the right products and management plan for your particular circumstances could make the world of difference.
Understanding the cause
If you haven’t already, the first step is to consult with your doctor to have the underlying cause diagnosed. Incontinence is always a symptom of an underlying issue, and once that’s understood, treatment can be considered.
For example, it may be as simple as an infection, which, when treated with antibiotics will also resolve the incontinence.
If your doctor determines that the issue will be on-going, ask for a referral to an Continence Nurse to help you develop a management plan.
Signs of Stress
According to the Continence Foundation website, signs of stress include:
- Poor sleep
- Over or under eating
- Niggles like headaches, digestive problems, racing heart and sweating
- Negative feelings and thoughts
- Misuse of alcohol and other drugs
- Withdrawing or declining social interactions
- Forgetfulness and indecision
- Declining self-esteem, anxiety and depression
Be aware of these signs and if you think you are suffering from stress, ask family and friends for help, talk to your healthcare professional and make a conscious effort to take care of yourself. If you’re feeling uncertain, visit the Beyond Blue website to find out more about the signs of metal health issues, or call them on 1300 22 4636. In New Zealand, head to the Mental Health Foundation or Lifeline
Looking after you
Many carers are so focused on the person they’re caring for, they neglect their own wellbeing. It’s so important to make sure you’re also looking after you. You might find the tips in this article ‘Why it’s important to take care of you’ helpful.
Have a plan
Being prepared and taking steps to actively manage incontinence, rather than having to deal with ‘accidents’ can make a difference to your workload, your attitude and of course, your stress levels.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Talk to your healthcare professional and make sure that everything possible has been done to rectify the issue
- Ensure you have the best incontinence product for the person you’re caring for. If you’re not sure, try our Product Finder tool which steps you through a short series of questions and then recommends the products that might best suit your circumstances. You can even order free samples to try
- Establish a toileting routine. This is especially good for people with Alzheimer’s and other neurologic conditions. Experiment with the interval times – usually between 45 minutes and two hours – until you find what works best
- Avoid food and drink that can irritate the bladder and make incontinence worse, keep fluid intake high (dehydration causes urine to concentrate which in turn irritates the bladder)
- Use TENA Bed disposable protective pads for seating and beds to reduce washing, protect mattresses and furniture and improve odour control
- Adopt a matter-of-fact approach or use humour to deflect any embarrassment. You might find this article for carers on Discussing Incontinence helpful
- Chose clothes that are easy to get on and off and go straight into the washing machine
- Prepare a bag with spare products, a change of clothes, wipes and disposal bags for when you’re out and about
- Get help. There are many supports available so don’t feel you need to go it alone.
- In Australia, head to the Continence Foundation for a list of resources, and for you, contact Carers Australia’s Supports and Services line on 1800 242 636.
- In New Zealand, call the Continence Helpline on 0800 650 659 or Carers NZ on 0800 777 797
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.