Caregivers Guide to Incontinence

Being a caregiver for someone with incontinence can be challenging. It often requires a great deal of empathy, carefully planned schedules, and a variety of helpful products along the way.

The good news, however, is that once you get into the rhythm of things, it can become significantly easier to help someone deal with incontinence on a daily basis.

You’ll want to start by building a trusting relationship where issues like incontinence can be discussed openly.

How to Discuss Incontinence

The individual you’re caring for might feel ashamed or anxious about their condition. Be patient, empathetic, and relaxed both when talking about incontinence and when helping with personal hygiene and the household chores that may be associated with it.

Understand that you're loved one may be in denial about their incontinence and resistant to wearing protective garments or taking preventative measures.

Try to remember that although the issue may cause you extra work as a caregiver, no one is being intentionally difficult, and there is often a great deal of embarrassment involved.

Avoid making accusations or commenting about how their home or room may smell. Instead, remind them that incontinence is quite common and that there are many new products on the market that may make life easier for them.

Also, keep in mind that the sudden onset of incontinence with no previous occurrences could be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI) or another medical condition that needs attention.

Generally, it's best to have these types of conversations as early as possible instead of avoiding the subject for fear of embarrassing someone.

For people who normally have incontinence, consider taking them to the doctor if they suddenly lose the ability to urinate, have chronic constipation or diarrhea, show signs of depression, or develop rashes that don’t fade after topical cream usage.

How to Plan for Someone with Incontinence

Encourage the person with incontinence to keep a “bladder diary” at least temporarily. This journal should contain what they eat and drink on a daily basis. It should also document when they used the bathroom (whether on purpose or accidentally) throughout the day. This information can help determine if any particular foods or drinks are irritating the bladder. It also shows the current frequency of bathroom usage.

With this knowledge at your disposal, you can help the person with incontinence develop a bathroom schedule. This may involve a period of “bladder training” where they slowly increase the amount of time between bathroom breaks. Soon, going to the bathroom around the same time every day will feel routine. This routine can help their body adjust and make it easier to avoid unwanted accidents.

If the person needs support in the bathroom, be sure to be patient and not make them feel rushed. Consider running water or playing music to keep embarrassment down and create a tranquil environment. If you are leaving the house, using an accessible toilet will provide much more room for assistance.

Travelling will involve some careful planning. If possible, try to stay as close as possible to their regular bathroom schedule. Always know where the nearest bathrooms are and sit close to them on planes, trains, or buses. Most importantly, always have a plastic bag with you that contains all necessary incontinence products.

What Products to Purchase for Someone with Incontinence

There are a variety of products that can help with incontinence. Some of these will vary depending on the person. For example, if somebody only has mild incontinence, using washable incontinence underwear may be sufficient.

However, a person with more severe incontinence may require disposable pull-up style incontinence underwear or tabbed incontinence briefs that make it easier for caregivers to assist with personal hygiene.

These all need to be properly fitted to the person based on size and gender, and we recommend that you try out several brands and styles before choosing which to use long-term. It's worth noting that most brands carry specific products for things like overnight use, a more active lifestyle, and so on.

Once you find the perfect fit, you may want to consider the subscription-based approach some brands are offering. This is a convenient way to ensure you have the products on hand when you need them and is a more discreet way of purchasing.

Many people also choose to purchase washable mattress protectors for beds and other furniture. This way, if there is an accidental leak, your furniture is protected.

You might also keep incontinence in mind when selecting clothing. Machine washable materials make cleanup easier, but also consider bottoms with elastic waistbands or velcro fasteners instead of buttons and zippers to make it faster and easier for your loved one to avoid accidents whenever possible.

It’s also important to keep the areas covered by incontinence products clean and dry, so have gentle soaps on hand. You can also find products specifically designed for managing incontinence, including wipes and creams to help protect your loved one's skin.

Caring for Yourself

Remember to take care of yourself! Taking breaks in caregiving whenever possible can refresh you and remind you why you’re helping in the first place.

Dealing with incontinence can definitely take a lot out of you; however, a little preparation and a lot of empathy can go a long way.

Be sure to nurture your relationship with your loved one to make discussing intimate subjects easier and make sure you’re always well stocked with the proper products to help manage the more challenging aspects of incontinence.