Caring for someone living with incontinence
Practical tips and general advice for carers in managing incontinence.
Incontinence is the involuntary loss of urinary and bowel control, which can occur in men or women of any age. Bladder or bowel weakness can be challenging for both the patient and their carer, but help is available so don’t manage alone. Many carers can have feelings of stress, anger, frustration or feel overwhelmed when dealing with a patient suffering with incontinence. These feelings are normal so don’t feel guilty.
To manage and treat incontinence correctly, a healthcare professional should be involved to discuss all suitable options that concern the incontinence that the patient is suffering from. This is due to the fact there are many different reasons bladder or bowel weakness occurs and some treatments may not be as effective as alternatives.
However, below are some helpful tips and general advice for carers in managing incontinence.
- Incontinence can be deeply distressing and can leave the person ashamed, aim to be calm and patient, talking to them openly together about the situation.
- Accepting your own embarrassment can help ease the overall discomfort for you both, humour can sometimes help but be respectful of the person.
- Even with effective treatment, accidents may still occur occasionally. Stay relaxed even if it feels frustrating.
- Look after yourself. Giving yourself planned breaks from caring on a regular basis will allow you to provide a better level of care. Don’t think it selfish to take time to yourself.
- Pads for urinary and bowel incontinence are available and should be changed as required. If you want more advice about either using pads or financial help in paying for them, contact the Victorian Continence Resource Centre or the National Continence Helpline.
- Clothing that uses zippers and buttons can be harder to manage than Velcro fasteners or elasticated waistbands. Ideally all clothing should be machine-washable that don’t require ironing.
- Protective garments (plastic or rubber) can cause rashes if they contact the skin or rub, so checking that all protective garments fit properly and are adjusted if necessary, can be vital to preventing extra problems.