Urinary Incontinence (UI) affects more than 423 million people worldwide. That’s 8.7% of the world’s population. Among those diagnosed with UI, almost half over the age of 65 depends on the care of others at home or in an institution. UI is a symptom of other health conditions, many of which are physical. Although certain neurological disorders – such as dementia – can also contribute to UI, mental health is often overlooked when providing care.
Supporting mental health in someone with UI requires identifying symptoms of psychological distress and taking steps to reduce it when possible. Lowering someone’s mental illness symptoms usually entails providing emotional support, but it also involves knowing what products – such as clothing, bedding, and incontinence pads – will help your patient live a fulfilling life. Read more on how to also provide mental care for patients with UI.
How Can UI Affect Mental Health?
UI is a life-changing diagnosis that involves significant re-adaptation to one’s surroundings. These changes may result in feelings of stigma, frustration, and shame, as well as feelings of anxiety and depression. Not all individuals with UI are aware of how severely a new diagnosis can affect their mental state. In fact, over half of all UI patients do not seek mental healthcare, despite reporting symptoms of mental distress.
As the partner or caregiver of someone with UI, look for the following mental health symptoms:
1. Decreased interest in exercise or sports
Individuals with UI tend to become less physically active, primarily due to a fear of others discovering their condition. Other factors include concerns about bladder leakage and the need to find a bathroom. A sedentary lifestyle might lead to obesity and type II diabetes, especially in elderly people. Furthermore, giving up an exercise hobby or sport may contribute to psychological distress in once-active UI patients.
2. Reduced intake of foods or liquids
People with UI may decrease the amount of foods they eat or liquids they drink in an attempt to make their bladder leakage less noticeable or more manageable. However, decreased fluid intake can lead to constipation and urinary tract infections.
3. Decreased interest in social outings
The potential for leaks and smell leaves many UI patients and caregivers homebound. Travel is also a concern for people with UI, due to uncertainty of whether toilets will be accessible at travel destinations or on public transport. Decreased social interaction may contribute to symptoms of anxiety and depression in both parties.
4. Increased irritability and anger
UI patients may become irritable and angry due to a perceived inability to master their UI, or from the negative impact that UI has on their lives. Anger may be the product of lack of sleep, a lack of social interaction, or feelings of shame.
These are four of the most common ways in which UI patients express mental distress. However, psychological upset may present itself in a variety of ways. If you observe behaviors that seem maladaptive or out of the ordinary, consult a professional.
How Can Caregivers Support Mental Health in UI Patients?
As a caregiver, supporting your patients’ mental health is as important as supporting their physical health. Here are some ways to support your patient’s mental well-being:
- Support them in engaging in light to moderate physical activity for at least an hour per day. Suggest going to the park, going shopping, or even going to the gym. Also, simple walks or pelvic floor exercises can keep them fit and even support their bladder training.
- Encourage them to get enough fluids. The recommended intake is 1.5 to 2 liters per day. If you want to read more on specific liquids to recommend for patients with UI, read here.
- Tell them the importance of maintaining contact with their friends and loved ones. Assist them in organizing small social gatherings, as well as attending interest-group meetings with like-minded individuals.
- Ask them about their levels of frustration or anger, especially following a new diagnosis. Remain available to help them in their adjustment to a life with UI. It is important to make patients feel relaxed since they don’t link anxiety or frustration to pain. This will contribute to their own mental health and give you the opportunity to provide better care for the patient.
Other Support for UI Patients
Being diagnosed with UI means re-adjusting to life, but that adjustment doesn’t have to be difficult. A waterproof mattress cover, as well as easy-to-remove clothing, are inexpensive solutions for avoiding unwanted leaks and making toilet trips less urgent. The result can be less sleep interruptions, as well as reduced feelings of anxiety in social situations.
Your choice of incontinence pad also matters. Discreet packaging, odour control, and compact design all make it easier for you and your patient to manage UI at home and in public. iD incontinence pads meets these criteria. Coming in many sizes and absorbencies, they allow any and all people with UI to discreetly manage their condition. Click here if you want to know what product to use at which stage.
 I. Milsom, Gothenburg Continence Research Center. “How big is the problem? Incontinence in numbers.” Source: http://www.gfiforum.com/Upload/43b34997-7408-4fa6-9547-72488e668060/I%20Milsom%20-%20Incontinence%20in%20numbers.pdf
 A.J. Sinclair, I. N. Ramsay. “The psychosocial impact of urinary incontinence in women.” Source: https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1576/toag.188.8.131.52665
 The Continence Foundation of Australia. “Understanding the psychological impact of incontinence.” Source: https://www.continence.org.au/pages/understanding-the-psychological-impact-of-incontinence.html
 A.J. Sinclair, I.N. Ramsay. “The psychosocial impact of urinary incontinence in women.”
 The Continence Foundation of Australia. “Understanding the psychological impact of incontinence.”
 The Continence Foundation of Australia. “Caring for someone with incontinence.” Source: https://www.continence.org.au/data/files/Factsheets/Caring_for_someone_with_incontinence_factsheet.pdf