Why does incontinence affect us so deeply?
Even though it is remarkably common, incontinence itself is still largely a taboo subject. It is associated with infancy or with the loss of faculties which can sometimes accompany old age. As such it is often regarded either as a subject for jokes or as somehow being shameful or degrading. From a very early age children are trained to use toilets and are educated to be 'dry' and 'clean' and this early training remains with us throughout our lives. This means that, when anybody becomes incontinent, even to the slightest degree, they can immediately become embarrassed and even ashamed of themselves.
Another reason for the high emotional impact surrounding incontinence, is that it involves the genital area. This means that it gets mixed up with other taboos which concern the sexual organs, especially amongst older generations.
Coping with emotions
Understanding why incontinence affects the one you care for so deeply can help you to help them to start to feel better about themselves and to tackle their bladder or bowel problems more positively. Here are four simple strategies to help the person you are caring for cope with their emotions.
1. Confide in someone you trust
Bladder and bowel problems are very rarely discussed so it is easy for the person you are caring for to feel that they are the only person that has such a problem. Yet statistics show that they will almost certainly have friends or family with similar problems - and who probably think they are alone too. Those who confide in friends or family normally find that their problem is usually accepted in a sensitive, sympathetic and matter-of-fact way.
2. Take a look from a different point of view
It may be useful to turn that question around and ask them whether they would think less of any of their friends if they became incontinent. Get them to imagine that it is a friend or family member who has this problem. Would they think any less of them just because they were incontinent?
3. A problem shared is a problem halved
Incontinence can be an embarrassing problem and the person you are caring for may want to keep it a secret. However, by doing so they may be cutting themselves off from the support of other members of their family and their friends who they could potentially call on if they have problems. For some people, keeping their bladder or bowel problems a secret can become so important that they end up becoming a prisoner in their own homes and alienating themselves from those they love most.
4. Take control
Once they have decided who they need to tell, they will need to plan exactly what they are going to say. They should explain the nature of their problem, why it has happened and how it impacts their life. Remember, they are still entitled to their privacy – they don’t have to tell everybody everything.
Taking this approach can help to put them in control of their incontinence, rather than the incontinence being in control of them.
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