Incontinence is not the most comfortable subject to talk about at any age. However, when it impacts an older loved one, speaking openly about it is the first step to helping manage its symptoms.
This distressing condition not only affects the person’s physical health but can also impact their dignity, independence, and quality of life. They may decrease social contact or stop going out for fear of having an accident in front of others.
As caregivers, taking an empathetic approach to supporting an older loved one with incontinence will help minimize the symptoms and protect their emotional well-being.
What is incontinence?
Simply put, incontinence is the inability to control one’s bladder or bowels. According to StatsCan, 1 in 5 older Canadians suffer from some form of bladder issue.
It’s important to note that incontinence is not a part of the normal aging process. The truth is that it’s a symptom of an underlying medical issue, muscle weakness, reaction to medication, or other factors. It is not a condition in and of itself.
How can I help someone who is incontinent?
Open and empathetic communication is one of the most critical aspects of helping an older person with incontinence. Your loved one may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or anxious about their condition, so creating a safe space for them to discuss their challenges and fears is essential. Encourage them to share their concerns and reassure them that you are there to support and assist them.
It’s understandable for family caregivers to feel frustrated when the person has an accident. However, it’s important to remember that incontinence is outside their control, and they likely feel distressed about losing control of their bodily functions. You can ease the situation with a calm, kind response that takes the stress away from both of you.
Here are some additional strategies to help manage incontinence:
Consult with healthcare professionals
It’s essential to determine the cause of incontinence and explore treatment options. Doctors can help identify underlying medical conditions and recommend appropriate therapies or medications.
Maintain their hygiene and dignity
Older people with incontinence require diligent personal hygiene. Regular bathing, changing soiled clothing, applying personal wipes after an accident, and using incontinence products such as adult diapers or pads can help maintain cleanliness and dignity. Many older adults are understandably resistant to using incontinence products, but you should have some on hand for when they are ready. It is crucial to approach these tasks with sensitivity and respect for your loved one’s privacy.
While assisting your loved one with incontinence, it’s important to promote their independence as much as possible. Encourage them to participate in activities related to their hygiene, such as choosing their clothing, changing their own underwear or incontinence products, or performing gentle exercises that strengthen pelvic muscles. This approach will help boost their self-esteem.
Make lifestyle modifications
Recommend the person wear clothes that make restroom use more manageable, such as pants with elastic waistbands instead of buttons or zippers. Installing grab bars in bathrooms, raising toilet seats, or using bedpans or commodes are additional ways to support toilet accessibility. You can also add absorbent padding to the bed and waterproof covers on other furniture for easier cleanup.
Establish a routine
Creating a structured daily routine can help the person manage incontinence more effectively. Schedule regular bathroom breaks every one to two hours, whether or not the person feels the urge to urinate, and be patient and understanding when they need assistance. Keep a bladder diary to track when incontinence episodes occur, as this can provide valuable information for healthcare professionals.
Monitor diet and fluid intake
Certain foods and beverages can exacerbate incontinence. Encourage your loved one to maintain a balanced, healthy diet that minimizes sugar, spicy foods, chocolate, tomatoes, and acidic fruits. Limit caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks as they can irritate the bladder. Adequate fluid intake is important, but be sure to find the correct balance that prevents dehydration without causing excessive urination.
Providing care for an older with incontinence can be physically and emotionally demanding. When you need a helping hand to ensure your loved one’s well-being, CareHop is here for you.
Quality in-home elder care services in Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Brampton
CareHop specializes in providing quality eldercare services when your family needs support to help your elderly loved one live at home independently and with optimal health through proper care and nutrition.
Our caregivers provide professional in-home nursing care, PSW services, and Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care that focuses on your loved one’s specific needs. We also offer in-home elder care services such as homemaking and meal preparation, personal care, activities, and casual companionship so they can enjoy their vintage years with the highest quality of life possible.
CareHop’s elder care services are designed to positively impact your loved one’s life throughout the year or at certain times when you need us the most.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation discussion to discover how we can help you.