5 Ways to Cope With the Emotional Side of Incontinence
Best to be blunt: Of course it's awkward and embarrassing to discuss a loved one's incontinence with him or her, let alone to have to change adult diapers (a.k.a. adult briefs these days). Private matters turned team project usually are.
Unfortunately, the net effect of nobody wanting to talk about his or her adult diaper stories is stressful caregiver isolation. A new survey on dealing with incontinence by Caring.com and SCA, makers of Tena incontinence products, finds that one in three caregivers avoids discussing the subject with a loved one altogether because it's too "embarrassing and difficult." (Most of the 500-plus respondents, all caregivers with incontinence-care experience, were boomer-age women.) And 42 percent say they get depressed about dealing with a loved one's incontinence.
That's a disheartening conspiracy of silence. It's also a silence that prevents worn-down caregivers, as well as those struggling with incontinence, from getting the help they need.
So it seems an apt time to highlight some of Caring's "greatest hits" advice on this subject. (Follow the links to more in-depth advice, especially #1.)
From Ken Robbins, a geriatric psychiatrist and internist who's a Caring.com senior medical adviser: If you're going to help someone, you need to be perceived as being helpful. Anytime you feel strongly that a behavior is unsanitary, unsafe, or otherwise problematic, it's wise to get a third party involved. This sidesteps nagging and arguments and instead gives you the role of supporter, helping the person follow someone else's advice. Let the person's doctor initially address the incontinence as a medical issue, to get the ball rolling.
From Ann Cason, founder and director of Circles of Care and author of the book by the same name: Many people try to ignore the subject or use euphemisms, which only makes things more awkward for everyone involved. Better to be matter-of-fact: Everybody spends part of their day urinating and eliminating. As we age, some of us develop problems with our bladder or bowel function. You'll lessen both your embarrassment and that of the person with the trouble if you can remain straightforward and talk about it like the medical issue that it is. It's really a pretty ordinary thing.