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Incontinence Care Advice

Young caregiver talking with an wise lady

Do you care for a person with urinary incontinence?

For caregivers, urinary incontinence care can be a very sensitive issue. It’s difficult for many older people to handle on their own and the loss of bladder control can be embarrassing—even humiliating. So how can a caregiver help manage the care of someone experiencing symptoms of incontinence?

Here are some tips on how to help your loved one address their urinary incontinence with dignity, comfort and support.

Here are 10 Tips for Incontinence Care

1. Educate Yourself

Understanding what kind of incontinence your loved one has will go a long way in providing incontinence care for him or her. Not only will the information help you understand the causes, symptoms and treatments for their condition, you will be able to empathize a bit more with their experience and be able to advocate for them, too.

Here’s a quick primer on the most common types of incontinence:

Stress incontinence is the result of a pelvic floor weakened by things like childbirth, aging or being overweight. Stress incontinence can result in light bladder leakage when pressure is placed on the bladder during everyday activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercising. Stress incontinence is best managed by performing exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, such as kegel exercises.
Schedule time for your loved one to perform these pelvic floor exercises.

Urge incontinence, also known as having an overactive bladder or OAB, is when sudden, frequent urges to urinate come strongly, even when there is no urine in the bladder. Your loved one may or may not be able to make it to the restroom in time. That’s why wearing incontinence products can help absorb those accidental urine leaks and help control odor.

Urge incontinence is caused by muscle or nerve damage in the bladder tissue as a result of previous pelvic surgery or neurological disease. Urge incontinence is best managed on a day-to-day basis by adopting a bladder-friendly diet. This means avoiding foods that aggravate the bladder, such as alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages and citrus.

Overflow incontinence, more common in men than in women, occurs when the bladder doesn’t successfully empty itself all the way due to a blockage or muscle weakness, so it leaks when it is full even though no urge to urinate was felt. Overflow incontinence is best managed by daily catheterization, surgery or medication to relieve pressure in the bladder.

Many women experience a mix of two different kinds of incontinence. This can also be known as mixed incontinence. The most common type of mixed incontinence is the combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

2. Don’t Say “Diaper”

Most people associate diapers with babies and toddlers who haven’t been potty-trained. Any adult would feel helpless and embarrassed to think that they’ve regressed to being watched after and changed like a baby. Here’s a better way to talk about urinary incontinence products: call them by a different name. Try absorbent “pads” or “briefs”—or even “protective underwear.” A simple change in language can empower your loved one by proving you respect them as an independently functioning adult.

3. Have Your Loved One Talk to a Doctor or a Peer

Not sure which type of incontinence your loved one has or how to best care for someone with incontinence? Or maybe the topic is too hard to even discuss? Not only are bladder leaks embarrassing, they can be embarrassing to talk about—especially for many elderly parents to discuss with their own children.

That’s why the urinary incontinence issue may be better approached by a non-family member, like an old friend or a doctor. A peer can empathize with the challenges of aging and connect on an emotional level to comfort your loved one. He or she may even share advice based on their own personal experiences. If you’re asked to provide support for someone with incontinence, reassure them that urinary incontinence, while often not discussed, is quite a common condition. In fact, 1 in 3 women over the age of 35 experience some form of urinary incontinence. A doctor can reassure them and lift their spirits by explaining that their situations is normal and that many other patients of a similar age face urinary incontinence too.

4. Promote a Bladder-Friendly Diet

Certain foods and beverages can trigger a sensitive bladder, creating the sudden urge to urinate for your loved one. Use these bladder-friendly diet tips to help manage incontinence symptoms:

  • Balance fluid intake. Not drinking enough water can result in your urine being too acidic and concentrated, which can irritate your bladder. On the contrary, drinking too much water can intensify those frequent urges to urinate.
  • Limit or avoid the following foods and beverages:
  • Caffeine (e.g. teas, coffee, chocolate)
  • Acidic and citrus foods and beverages (e.g. oranges, cranberries, pineapple, tomatoes)
  • Carbonated or fizzy drinks
  • Spicy foods
  • Alcohol

5. Make a Schedule

When to Go...

Creating a routine for when your loved one goes to the restroom can both lengthen the amount of time between bathroom stops and can improve bladder control. Start by encouraging your loved one to hold their urine for five minutes every time he or she needs to go. Work your way up to help strengthen their bladder muscles over time.

When to Throw...

Keep a schedule of when incontinence products need to be changed. Use an alert on your phone to notify you when changes are needed. Changing incontinence pads or underwear when they become full can help prevent urine leaks, reduce symptoms from sensitive skin, and keep them feeling fresh and confident all day long.

6. Cleanliness & Hygiene

An important part of incontinence care is helping your loved one stay clean, fresh and odor-free. This includes:

  • Changing liners, pads or incontinence underwear when needed
  • Washing clothes and bedding immediately after leaks occur
  • Waterproofing the home from those accidental leaks, which can include the placing protectors or pads on the bed, chairs and common living areas
  • Selecting clothing that can be easily changed and cleaned, like loose-fitted or elastic pants. Avoid clothes that have multiple buttons or difficult zippers

7. Plan Ahead

Leaving the house when you’re caring for an incontinent loved one can feel like a monumental task. The spectra of caring for a person with incontinence in a public bathroom can feel particularly daunting. With a little planning, however, leaving the house can be made easier. Pack a bag with necessary incontinence supplies. Good things to have on you are pads, wipes, incontinence underwear, gloves and a change of clothes. Consider bringing a laminated sign to post outside public restrooms to alert other patrons and ask for patience and consideration—for instance, “wife caring for disabled husband.”

8. Know Your Physical Limitations

Caring for a person with incontinence is often quite a physical endeavor—lifting, moving, shifting, helping them out of bed, standing them up, sitting them down. All of this becomes challenging when there is a large difference in size between the two people. Age and disability can often affect the ease with which a loved one can be maneuvered. Consider consulting a physical therapist for tips on how to move a loved one properly without causing injury to yourself.

9. Reach Out for Support

Caregivers are often the last to be taken care of. Becoming a caregiver can be a taxing process that all too often is thrust upon us without much forewarning. The ins and outs of providing incontinence care can be demanding. Be sure to cultivate a support system for yourself as a caregiver. A friend or peer to talk to about the challenges and rewards of the experience can provide you with just the boost you need in order to provide the best for your loved one.

10. Find the Right Incontinence Protection

A big part of providing incontinence care is picking the right incontinence products to use. Different degrees of urinary incontinence require different levels of protection. Find Always Discreet urinary incontinence products that match your loved one’s size, leakage level and protection need.

All Always Discreet products use gel technology that absorbs liquids in seconds, keeping your loved one dry and comfortable. Our odor-neutralizing core will keep your loved one feeling confident.

Here's a great incontinence comparison guide to help you choose the best type of incontinence products based on the size, absorbency and comfort your loved one needs.

Having the right protection will help your loved one stay confident and active because they don’t have to constantly worry about embarrassing bladder leaks or urine odors. The right protection can help them feel free of the restrictions of incontinence—and they’ll have you to thank for it!