Caregiving Concerns and Adult Incontinence
Struggles with adult incontinence is one reason why family and/or partner caregivers are so important for the loved ones they are helping. Incontinence, especially if it becomes heavier or more frequent, can be very emotionally draining for the adult suffering with it, but also the caregivers.
Incontinence can also be a factor in the decision to move into a nursing home or other long-term living facility. Incontinence issues can be a tipping point in a stressful caregiving situation. Learn about several of the common issues caregivers face with some suggestions on how to cope with these concerns.
First, there hopefully will be time for you to prepare and develop a plan for giving care while also carving out time for your own life. Incontinence can socially isolate not only the people with the condition, but also the caregiver. Traveling, social events or just getting around day to day with someone who is incontinent takes advanced planning.
Consider packing a bag ahead of time with whatever supplies are needed: incontinence underwear, pads, washcloths, diaper rash cream and a change of clothes just in case. Plastic bags to stash soiled products are a good idea. When traveling, identify family bathroom options in airports, train stations, rest stops etc. that allows two people to go in together. This will reduce anxiety for both of you. Also, consider getting seats near the bathroom in an airplane or on other transportation.
Feelings of embarrassment not only for yourself but also for the care receiver is quite common and understandable. Taking care of your parent or partner who struggles with incontinence is difficult since it requires personal and awkward actions for both the caregiver and care receiver. Compassion for the loss of dignity felt by a loved one who now needs care at this level is hard to process and deal with every day.
Engaging with supportive family, friends, or professionals can be very helpful. Your feelings are legitimate and real. If you need a break, plan to hire a home care worker or persuade another family member or friend you trust to step in when necessary.
What if your loved one fights you on the severity of their bowel or urinary incontinence? Or does not want to wear incontinence underwear or pads even after accidents? First, do not judge or treat them too harshly. Anyone dealing with incontinence can feel they have lost their dignity and independence which takes an emotional toll. The resistance might present itself as denial, anger, refusal, or indifference.
Talking with compassion and honesty is very important. Discuss how their incontinence is affecting you and your ability to provide the best possible care for them. This can make acceptance easier—of the incontinence as well as the incontinence products. Consider also getting involved in a support group or take classes to learn how to communicate with your loved one better to facilitate acceptance and cooperation.
Dealing with incontinence is difficult. You may feel anger or impatience for having to take care of your loved on and deal with cleaning up after them.
Acknowledge the valid feelings you have and seek out help from professionals, other family members, friends, support groups or occupational therapy. It is common that, if you feel resentful or inadequate, your loved one with incontinence is feeling similar emotions or even worse. Getting support does not mean you failed or cannot take care of your loved one. The point is to understand you are not alone in the situation and do not have to do it all yourself. It will likely help both you and your loved one to empathize with each other and find ways to make the situation easier.
As a caregiver that your loved one depends on, taking good care of yourself and recognizing your physical limitations is crucial. If you are of small stature, trying to help a much larger person out of bed might risk hurting your back or straining other muscles. If you need to sleep less to take care of your loved one during the night or need to regularly exercise or eat a certain diet, you should find ways to work those into your daily schedule. If you fall ill, your loved one will be impacted as well.
Consider getting a physical or occupational therapist to instruct you how to use your body and what things to avoid while helping your loved one. It is ok to admit your physical limitations and develop ways to compensate; in fact, it is absolutely necessary.
Incontinence makes the caregiver’s job harder in many ways. One of the biggest is all the daily or weekly activities needed to keep things running smoothly. Regular laundry of clothes and/or incontinence products; more cleaning of bathrooms, toilets, showers, bathtubs and general management of the home all increase in taking care of one suffering from inconsistence. Additional factors that cannot be overlooked are the cost of incontinence care products, and the effort involved to monitor and purchase all necessary supplies.
For example, do not hesitate to ask another caregiver—in person or on an online caregiver support groups—for their suggestions on the best places to buy products. Or hire a cleaning service to help you maintain the home and free up time to take your loved one to the doctor or other necessary activities.
Remember, you are not alone and do not need to do everything yourself. Not only will that wear you down, but it will impact the quality of care you can give to your loved on and both of your emotional states. Adult incontinence is quite common—25% of women and 15% of men experience incontinence at some point in their lives. Utilize any resources you can: medical professionals, other family members, partners, friends and support groups can all help make caregiving easier and better for your loved one.
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