The ‘I’-word: Talking About Incontinence


According to official NHS statistics, between three and six million Britons are affected with some degree of urinary incontinence, and 1 in 10 people will experience bowel incontinence at some point in their lives.  So common a problem is incontinence that there are a wide range of products made to assist sufferers, and there is even a wide range of support groups – and even online communities – that set up a vast, international support network by sufferers, for sufferers.  Incontinence isn’t uncommon, and it’s slowly making it into the mainstream.  It is nothing to be ashamed of.

But how does one talk about incontinence?  Perhaps you suspect a loved one may have problems with incontinence, or maybe you have it yourself and you’re struggling to find the words to tell anyone – even your doctor.  But where do you even begin with a tricky subject like incontinence?  After all, it’s not really something that you can just “bring up” – so when is a good time?

Talking to your Doctor: they’ve heard it all before

If you suspect you may be a sufferer of – or have early warning signs of – either urinary or bowel incontinence, you should – without a doubt – go and see your doctor as soon as possible; as with most things, the earlier the better!  It’s a real cliché, but your doctor really has heard it all before – and worse!  If you tell anyone in the world, you must tell your GP – it’s their job to help you as much as they can.  Most people think that incontinence is a natural part of ageing, and that once it arrives it’s there to stay, and it’s only going to get worse.  Actually, in most cases, incontinence is temporary and fully curable, so it’s best to inform your GP as soon as possible.

Talking to the Nurses: so have they

And if your doctor’s heard it all before, then the nurses have certainly seen it all before!  If you or a loved one already receives homecare or regular visits by nurses, then it’s the nurses’ duty to ensure that you’re getting all the care that you require.  Your nurses see incontinence everyday – they understand that it’s a common problem, and will have no problem assisting you with it.

Talking to a Loved one

If you suspect a loved one might be suffering from incontinence, but that they might be too embarrassed to talk about it, then it’s important to approach the subject sensitively.  You know them better than anyone, so gauge how you think they might react based on what you know about their mannerisms.  However, it is important not to dance around the subject or even avoid it – this might make them feel even more ashamed and alienated; remember that incontinence isn’t uncommon, and it shouldn’t be treated as such.

If you’re the one suffering from incontinence, and you’re not quite sure how to approach your loved ones about it, then perhaps consider telling one person who you trust first.  From there, your support base can start growing, and you can stop living alone with your illness.

Article by Arran Garside, freelance copywriter who often writes for Locala HomeCare.

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