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Understanding Incontinence: Physical and Mental Tips for Caregivers

May 31, 2023 4 min read

Understanding Incontinence: Physical and Mental Tips for  Caregivers

By Fay Smith. Photo from Pexels Mathew Zomier

Caring for an older person or relative who has become incontinent can be
very demanding and stressful. It’s a mixture of doing the best for the other person,
while still allowing them to have control of their lives. You may have to adapt to
their needs, even on a daily basis. Doing so takes time out of your day and places
extra emotional demands on you. It is distressing if you find yourself being so exhausted and overworked that you even begin to resent them. This then feeds into any anxiety you may experience. Apart from helping the person in your care, you need to help yourself. A great stress reliever and way to control your anxiety is to practice yoga for anxiety. One of the things you will learn is to control your breathing, which helps you focus and feel less anxious.

Opt for protective underwear
One of the solutions to coping with incontinence is for older people to wear
pads, protective underwear or even underwear that is so absorbent, it is really a
form of diaper. You can shop for Seni active super pull-on underwear, which is
great for more active people, or Attends discreet underwear, which can be worn for an extended period. When you refer to pads or protective underwear, try to avoid using terms such as ‘adult diapers’ around the older person. They tend to reduce the person to being a child, even a baby. You can imagine how this would make them feel upset, embarrassed and stressed. You must make sure you change your underwear regularly.

Dealing with the smell
When you are dealing with incontinence, it is almost inevitable that your
house will begin to smell. Don’t talk about this in earshot of your care receiver, if at
all possible. If you do need to address the question of the smell with your care
receiver, then do so gently. There are many products available to help you cover up or eliminate the smell. Having an unpleasant smell in your house can become a strain, especially when your family feels uncomfortable and even complains.
To help cope with this, you can talk about the problem and how to solve it
with a member of your family. This is not always easy, so joining a support group is a useful alternative. Interacting with others who have also ‘been there’ will boost
your confidence and build your coping mechanisms.

Coping with embarrassment
The person you are caring for may become very embarrassed about being
incontinent. You may also become embarrassed: perhaps on their behalf, or at
having to help them. It’s often not easy to have to undress your relative or care
receiver, especially when you will have to wash their private parts. If your care
receiver is of the opposite sex, you may find it even more difficult. As a way to cope with this, you should try to remove yourself from the situation, either emotionally, or completely. You should speak calmly and remain matter-of-fact with the care receiver, focusing on cleaning them up efficiently and effectively. If you can’t cope and need to remove yourself from this part of caring,
then you could hire a professional carer.

Practicing patience
One of the greatest demands on you when you are caring for a person with
incontinence is patience. You need to find ways to stand back and allow the
caregiver to have enough time to do what they need to. If they need to take their
time in the toilet, then let them. If cooking soothes them, then encourage them to
bake something simple. Music is a great soother, so perhaps you can play soothing music, or read a book aloud to them. Keep them calm and let them have time to finish in the toilet. Equip yourself with a book to read while they are on the toilet.

Sticking to a pattern
Someone who is incontinent often has a pattern for urinating. This doesn’t
mean that they will always need to urinate at the same time each day. Their
pattern may be that they need to urinate soon after having drunk water, or even
after every meal. You can avoid a number of accidents or embarrassing situations if you can take the care receiver to the toilet at times that fit into their pattern. You can try to explain to them what you and they need to focus on. By involving them in managing their incontinence, you are empowering them and making them feel
more in control. It is more difficult to manage a pattern of urinating at night, so use
a waterproof underpad on the bed.

Keeping active
For both you and the person receiving your care, physical activity is
important. Incontinence is often linked to an overactive bladder muscle, so
encouraging the care receiver to do exercises to strengthen their pelvic muscles is
important. You should also get active, because you will need to be fit to be able to
help your person. One way to strengthen and tone your body is to do yoga, which is also a good way to relieve stress.


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