5 Ways You Can Support Someone With Incontinence

5 Ways You Can Support Someone With Incontinence

Living with incontinence can be frustrating and even embarrassing at times. It can be even harder if friends and family don’t know how to support us. Here are five ways you can help and support someone with incontinence.

1. Understand their condition

The most important thing you can do to help someone with any medical condition is to understand it. Taking the time to learn about symptoms, cause and how it affects them day to day is the clearest way you can say to a person “I care”.

You don’t need to have a medical degree, simply learning the basics will make a difference. Understanding what causes your friend or loved one’s incontinence will enable you to respond sensitively while offering the right support at the right time.

2. Understand their emotional needs

Incontinence can have a significant effect on a person’s emotional wellbeing. Anxiety, depression and stress are common in people with incontinence issues. Imagine being too afraid to leave the house in case you have an accident, or being worried that you smell of urine. It can be difficult feeling comfortable around people if you are on standby for a sudden bladder sensation.

I’m always worried that I smell of wee and, worse, that other people can smell it. My wife reassures me that I don’t smell but if someone in a coffee shop starts sniffing the air, I assume it’s me and not the delicious coffee aroma they are inhaling.

To support someone with incontinence issues, being aware they may feel anxious in public means you can support them. Don’t make jokes but do give them plenty of reassurance that you are there to help them with any continence situation.

3. Be patient

Going to the toilet every ten minutes is frustrating. Stopping at every service station on the motorway is frustrating. Searching for the public toilet as soon as you arrive anywhere is frustrating. Imagine how much more frustrating it would be to have someone tutting and sighing every time you disappeared to the toilet. Your friend or loved one probably doesn’t enjoy going to the toilet many times a day, nor do they enjoy keeping one eye on the public toilet when they are shopping. Holding on until they get home can lead to being distracted for the rest of the day and it can cause them a lot of discomfort and pain. If you make it clear that you are happy to wait five minutes while they make a quick toilet stop, they can be comfortable and enjoy their time with you rather than focussing on their bladder.

4. Be prepared

When I go anywhere, I’m accompanied by a small army of supplies. I’ve dried enough wet knickers with a hand drier to know that a spare pair is more convenient. I learnt that life is much easier if I take plenty of supplies whenever I leave the house to cover all eventualities. When you are prepared for accidents, things are less stressful for everyone and can mean less disruption to your day. Gloves, wipes, spare clothes, a small towel, tape, toilet roll, sealable plastic bags for soiled clothes, a bottle of water and even a compact air freshener can be put into a small backpack and left in the car. A small seaside windbreaker can act as a screen to offer privacy if you need to stop at the side of a road to deal with a clean-up.

If your loved one is happy for you to be in charge of spare supplies, it is one less thing for them to worry about and it allows you to offer practical support.

5. Be willing to change plans

Dysfunctional bladders and bowels are known for their impeccable timing. The day you pack a picnic and load the car for a trip is the day when the overactive bladder plays up. Planning journeys so your route includes plenty of toilet stops and extra time ensures the day will be more enjoyable. However, even the best plans need to be adapted quickly if the public loo is out of order or you end up stuck in traffic. Continence needs don’t have to put the day on hold if you have a plan B. An alternative route to avoid traffic can make car journeys more comfortable and a backup activity ensures your friend or loved one doesn’t feel guilty if the first option becomes unsuitable. If plans are changed or cancelled, remember that your friend or loved one may feel frustrated and possibly guilty. Be sensitive and reassure them that you understand. You can offer to do something fun at home instead like watch a movie or have your picnic in the garden.

Above all, ask your friend or loved one how you can support them and let them know you want to help.

Living with incontinence can be frustrating... but it can be even harder if others don’t know how to support you

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by Carrie Beckwith Fellows

Carrie Beckwith Fellows

About the author

Hi I'm Carrie, I live in rural Northumberland. I have complex health issues including severe intestinal dysmotility and bladder dysfunction caused by Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. You can follow my blog at www.ruralteacake.com.