Talking about personal issues can be difficult for even the closest of family members. When it comes to discussing embarrassing topics such as incontinence, most of us aren’t sure how to broach such a delicate subject without sounding offensive or insulting. However, discussing the issue of incontinence with an ill or elderly loved one is a necessary evil that caregivers must force themselves to do. Making sure the loved one understands what is happening to their bodies is the first step in opening a dialogue that will be effective in dealing with any issues that may arise from their incontinence. Here are some things for family members and caregivers of incontinent loved ones to consider when planning a discussion.

First and foremost, caregivers should stress to their elderly charges that incontinence is not their fault. There are numerous medical conditions – both mental and physical – that contribute to a person becoming incontinent. The most common health condition that leads to incontinence is a stroke. Because a stroke leaves the body’s muscles weakened, bowl and bladder muscles may become harder to control. A decreased level of consciousness that is brought on by certain mental conditions – such as dementia – can also greatly contribute to the onset of incontinence.

Next, caregivers and family members should understand that most people suffering from incontinence find the experience to be embarrassing and shameful. Caregivers should choose their words and actions wisely, taking pains not to cause further embarrassment or shame to their incontinent loved ones. Some incontinent family members will refuse to talk about their condition, which can make communication even more difficult. That doesn’t mean caregivers should avoid the subject. It just means that they need to take a different, although subtle, approach.

Aside from discussing the problem, there are other ways that caregivers can make dealing with incontinence easier for their elderly charges. Making sure that they know where the bathroom is and that the path leading to it is free and clear of obstacles can help them reach the bathroom faster, thereby avoiding some accidents. Assure that the elderly loved one is able to quickly and effortlessly remove their clothing in order to use the bathroom. Having to fumble with buttons and zippers when they really need to go to the bathroom can contribute to them having accidents as a result. Frequently asking them if they need to use the bathroom and offering assistance if they need can also be very helpful in preventing accidents. Finally, always discuss the issue of incontinence with their primary health care provider. There may be treatment options available that you were unaware of.

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