When a loved one is suffering from incontinence, it can be difficult to know how to fully support them when you don't know firsthand what they're going through. Incontinence is a common condition many people live with, but not everyone likes to admit they have it because they may feel embarrassed or self-conscious about it. That can make it more difficult to provide proper support.
Whether it's an elderly parent, a partner who has just given birth, or a friend who has suffered a traumatic injury, it's natural to want to be there for them during this time. It's also an important responsibility to take on, so you want to make sure you're doing the right things to keep them safe, happy, and well.
Here are 5 helpful ways you can offer support to people with incontinence and show them that you're here for them in any way you can.
1. Understand What They Are Going Through
To properly care for someone who has incontinence, the first thing you should do is research. Read up about their condition and how it works. There are multiple different types of incontinence and each has its own set of triggers, causes, and side effects.
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You don't need to become a leading health expert on their medical condition, but it's easy to find enough information on some of the basic needs they have and the symptoms that they're going through. It will mean a lot to them that you took the time to learn about and understand their condition, and it will give you a better idea of what they're experiencing so you can be prepared and offer the best support.
2. Prioritize Their Emotional Well-Being
People who suffer from incontinence often struggle emotionally as well. There are many studies that have found a direct link between incontinence and depression, as well as a decreased quality of life or loss of self-efficacy. It can be embarrassing to deal with an accident, or to admit you struggle with incontinence in general. They may begin to feel anxious in public and constantly worried about smells or leaks. In some cases, individuals with incontinence can become hesitant to leave the house entirely for fear of accidents or public humiliation.
Make sure you show empathy to your loved one. Approach their situation with respect and patience, and let them know you're there for them no matter what. This can also help you with your own stress levels in the process.
3. Be Proactive and Prepared
Your loved one is likely already worried about how their bladder is going to impact their day, so if they'll allow it, let them put you in charge of bringing spare supplies and being prepared. Not everyone is willing to hand over the reigns, but if they'll let you, this can take a load off their shoulders.
Whenever you leave the house, make sure you're armed with supplies like an extra pair of pants and underwear, extra adult diapers or pads, gloves, wipes, extra toilet paper, creams or ointments, and anything else they use on a regular basis. Always be prepared for accidents to happen, and create a game plan if they happen when you're out in public so you can handle the situation swiftly and immediately.
4. Try to be Adaptive and Open to Change
When you're living with any type of incontinence, you learn very quickly that accidents don't always cooperate with your plans. This is something you'll need to embrace when you're caring for someone with incontinence as well.
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Be open to changing your plans at the last minute and try not to become frustrated when your loved one's overactive bladder has decided to act up on the day that you have plans to go out of town. It can be frustrating when you need to stop and look for a washroom frequently, but you need to remember that your loved one is frustrated, too, and it's not their fault this is happening.
5. Communicate With Their Medical Care Provider
If your loved one is a direct relative, like a parent, spouse, or sibling and you are their primary caregiver, it can be helpful to speak to their medical care provider about their symptoms and specific health needs. More often than not, incontinence is the result of another health condition such as cancer, and your loved one will have specific needs or risks that you should look out for. Understanding these risks will help you provide the best quality care for them, and will help you be a more compassionate caregiver overall.