How to Care for Someone With Urinary Incontinence
How can I talk to my loved one about incontinence?
Realize it's normal to feel uncomfortable. There are some discussions between close relatives, especially a parent and child, that many of us would rather avoid: Talking to your own children about sex is probably not something many parents can glide through without some discomfort. Equally difficult, or perhaps even more so, is broaching the subject of incontinence with the very person who used to change your diapers when you were an infant.
Whether or not the person you're caring for has memory problems or dementia, the topic of incontinence is challenging. "Society has programmed us to view bodily functions as dirty and private, and when you're dealing with a parent, having such a discussion isn't a natural thing to do," says Carol Jones, a family consultant with the Mountain Caregiver Resource Center in Mount Shasta, California.
Avoid denying there's a problem. When talking to adult children who are caregivers, Jones found that they often have such a hard time dealing with incontinence that they pretend it's not happening. "Sometimes the biggest problem is that the caregiver is embarrassed and feels the need to cover up the accidents, even denying that the person is incontinent."
Don't assume the person is trying to punish you. Another pitfall, particularly if the person has dementia, is the misperception that he's having accidents "on purpose," as a way of gaining control, according to Jones, yet that's rarely the case.
Communicate about the problem. To overcome these emotional obstacles, Jones recommends tackling the topic head on. "The best way to do it is to speak frankly and say, 'We're in this together. I know this is embarrassing for you, and it's hard to depend on someone else for bodily functions, but I want to work on this with you to make it easier.'" Of course, if the person you're caring for has dementia or Alzheimer's, you may need to use a different approach.