Talking to an Adult with Incontinence

Jun 21, 2016

Talking to an Adult with Incontinence

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Coping with incontinence can be challenging and frustrating, not only for the individual with incontinence, but also those around them. Despite this, it’s important that the families and loved ones of those handling incontinence remain sensitive and compassionate, rather than getting angered by any trials that may become present.

Handling Accidents with Sensitivity

With that being said, there are certain ways you should talk to seniors that are coping with incontinence, and there are certain ways you should not talk to them. Here are some examples of situations that need to be handled gently while helping someone manage their incontinence:

Scenario

You are leaving the house with your senior loved one, and accidents have been more prevalent lately.

What not to say: You ARE wearing a diaper, right? We don’t have time for any accidents today.

What to say : We’re going to be out for a while. Are you wearing the appropriate undergarments?

Explanation : The word diaper can seem harsh and it comes with a childish connotation. It is important to remember that this is an adult that you are speaking to. Despite this, it is acceptable to give the individual a helpful reminder!

Scenario

The senior has stood up from the dinner table, and you notice that they have had an accident.

What not to say: Did you have to do that at the dinner table? Go clean yourself up.

What to say: It looks like you may have spilled something on your pants, why don’t you go change?

Explanation: Incontinence can be an embarrassing disorder, and it definitely does not help the matter to scold the individual in front of other friends or family members. Within this situation, it’s also important to remember that these are called accidents for a reason. 

Scenario

Nighttime accidents have become more prevalent lately, despite limited daytime accidents.

What not to say: You don’t need a drink with dinner; I’m tired of cleaning up your bed in the mornings.

What to say: It looks like too much water might be the reasoning behind these new accidents, what do you think we can do to help this?

Explanation: Hydration is important, and you should never tell anyone they shouldn’t have a drink of water, despite this being the root of the problem. Helping the senior to understand the issue, and allowing them to participate in brainstorming about solutions will help them to feel more in control. 

Scenario

Every time a senior gets frustrated or angry, they’ve been having accidents.

What not to say: You do this every time we argue! Are you having accidents to spite me?

What to say: It looks like this has been happening lately when you get upset, is there anything I can do to help you from becoming frustrated?

Explanation: While many consider incontinence a disorder, it’s also a common symptom within other disorders. Things like anger and frustration may trigger incontinence. If you notice this within a loved one, try to limit irritating situations to the best of your ability. This can be difficult at times; especially depending on other symptoms the senior may be dealing with.

Yes – incontinence can be frustrating for all those that are exposed to it, but it is important to remember that these individuals are adults and must be treated with the respect and the dignity they deserve. Accidents happen!

If you notice worsening incontinence within a loved one, speak to a physician. Medical professionals can provide families with the resources that will facilitate this situation for both the senior and their families and loved ones.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is bladder training?

It’s just what it sounds like! Patients either practice controlling the urge, set specific times to visit the bathroom to avoid accidents, or practice double voiding. Double voiding is the idea of completely emptying the bladder by urinating then urinating again after a few minutes.

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What are the different types of urinary incontinence and what are they?

The following are the different types of urinary incontinence:

  • Urge incontinence - also known as effort incontinence, reflex incontinence, or overactive bladder is frequent and sudden urges to urinate.
  • Overflow incontinence - is when the bladder cannot contain the amount of urine or cannot completely empty. This type is most common among men with prostate gland problems, a damaged bladder, or a blocked urethra.
  • Functional incontinence - is having the urge to urinate but not making the bathroom in time due to immobility.
  • Gross total incontinence - is continuous urine leakage of a small amount or periodic urine leakage of large amounts.
  • Stress incontinence - sudden pressure on the bladder muscles, such as coughing or sneezing, causing urination. This is most common in women who have given birth.
  • Mixed incontinence - is experiencing stress & urge incontinence at the same time

See All Answers »

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