While the prospect of discussing as sensitive an issue as urinary incontinence with your loved one can be daunting at best, with careful planning, this conversation can be handled in a manner that lets your loved one know that they have your full and unwavering support. Historically, such a topic would have been met with shame and embarrassment, but times have changed and family, caregivers, and doctors now serve as a collaborative team who are there to address any and all issues and concerns associated with your loved one’s health and well-being. It is important to remember that this is a sensitive situation that will require tact and empathy.
This is not a discussion that you can go into without some degree of practice and preparation. Practice what you want to say with family members or others affected by it. Make sure that you are ready to address everyone’s concerns. When the time comes for the conversation, you should make sure that your loved one is as comfortable as possible. Perhaps you sit in the living room in their favorite chairs, or out in the garden that they have lovingly tended for years. Your approach should be gentle so that both you and your loved one are as comfortable as possible discussing this embarrassing situation. At no time should your tone be adversarial and your loved one should never feel like they are in trouble. By the end of the conversation, you will hopefully have convinced them to let you take them to their primary caregiver to discuss what will need to come next.
In the elderly, urinary incontinence is most often due to one of several factors. The problem could be due to an infection of the urinary tract or prostate, and would need little more than an antibiotic. It could be as simple as being a side effect of some of the medication that they regularly take which the doctor could easily adjust. If they are suffering from a disease, dementia, or if they are post-stroke, the incontinence could be due to their medical condition. Ultimately, options could be as simple as antibiotics or bladder training to actually having to move them into an assisted living situation or nursing home.
If your loved one is still able to participate in the decision-making process, then by all means include them in the extended conversation. Whatever actions will need to be taken could be either very minor or they could be life changing for everyone involved. Many of these decisions cannot be taken lightly. Following the first doctor appointment that you will hopefully attend with your loved one, any actions that follow should be carried out with as much love and support as possible to reassure your loved one that everything is being done in their best interests.