Reading somebody else’s account about successfully managing incontinence can often help you to feel less confused and more hopeful in managing the condition.
In June 2017, The National Association for Continence launched a new campaign, “Life Without Leaks”, to raise awareness of incontinence and to urge people to seek treatment and share their story. The organisation is supportive of the idea that incontinence is not a condition that you have to simply learn to live with. Life Without Leaks provides the message that incontinence can be treated successfully. The NAFC claims, “simply put, there is no reason whatsoever for most of us to have to suffer from wetness, embarrassment and discomfort. That goes for people who have serious symptoms as well as those with only occasional problems.” The aim of the organisation is to “shine a spotlight on bladder leakage and show men and women of any age and with a range of conditions that there is hope.”
Supporting the NAFC’s aspiration to encourage more people to speak about incontinence, we have collected some personal stories about incontinence management:
10-year-old Joe was born with disabilities as a result of a virus his mother, Jodie, contracted at birth. As a consequence, Scott has no speech or language and is completely incontinent. Although Joe is unable to do many things, Scott told the Continence Foundation of Australia, “If he can see us and hear us, and if he knows we’re his parents, then nothing else matters”.
Jodie believes that as a family they have acquired more empathy, awareness and understanding of difference, and are less judgemental of others. She sees this in her children, who pay no attention to other children’s differences, only noticing their commonalities. Jodie and Chris have managed to provide Joe with the correct incontinence products throughout the year that have allowed him to live his life without embarrassment and take part in the same activities as other children. Joe’s parents focus on what Joe can do instead of what he can’t, overhauling their values and priorities. She refers to Scott and the children as “Team Roberts”. The outstanding strength and support Jodie has shown throughout the years has resulted in Jodie winning the 2015 Continence Foundation’s Carer of the Year award. Jodie hopes the award will create a greater understanding and awareness of the enormous strains and challenges carers like her experience every day.
Gerard was cleaning up about 25 of his mother’s faecal incontinence accidents each year until he spoke with continence nurse Lisa from the National Continence Helpline. He shared his story with the Continence Foundation of Australia to inspire other carers in a similar situation.
In his ambition to take care of his mother, Gerard kept meticulous records in his mother’s bowel chart and followed closely the advice provided by the family doctor. The medical advice was to treat her for chronic constipation, which had become so severe it was causing faecal overflow (which occurs when the bowel becomes so compacted that liquid faeces forces its way past the blockage). She was prescribed softening agent Coloxyl and bowel stimulant Senna. For the next four years, Gerard managed his mother’s incontinence as best as he could, her condition becoming further compounded by dementia. Her constipation worsened and enemas were also prescribed.
When his mother was suffering from incontinence most severely, Gerard also had to manage his mother’s severe chest infection, which rendered her virtually infirm. Gerard asserted “all her transfers could only be achieved with a hoist. I was at a loss to see how I would be able to cope anymore,”. In desperation, Gerard phoned the National Continence Helpline and spoke with continence nurse Lisa. Gerard claimed, “Lisa explained there had been significant UK studies on the long-term use of osmotic laxatives, and that they could be a gentler and more positive approach to treating her constipation,” he said. During the phone conversation, Lisa explained that Senna could cause cramping. She suggested he take the research information to his mother’s GP to discuss the suitability of osmotic laxatives. Lisa also provided Gerard with a basic overview of the body’s natural rhythms around toileting so he could take advantage of the most likely times his mother’s bowel would open of its own accord.
“I don’t think I could overstate the gratitude I feel towards Lisa and the Helpline service,” Gerard said. “The advice received was crucial, and I certainly won’t hesitate to use the Helpline in future, nor would I hesitate to recommend the service to anyone with continence needs.”
Rick wrote to the Simon Foundation for Continence to encourage others to share their condition with others and look for the correct products.
Rick claims, “when I started having incontinence accidents, day and night, I went to get help, and doctors could not find anything wrong. It left me with few options. I refused to wear anything, but that only caused me to isolate myself.” Due to not telling about his condition, Rick felt more and more alone with handling the problem.
Rick’s wife encouraged him to tell the rest of the family, and when Rick finally did, he explains “when we told them, they all seemed shocked but said, “it’s OK”. He claims, “wearing a diaper is not the end of the world. Just let people know. You’ll be surprised how everyone is OK with your issue.”
If you are in a situation similar to Jodie, Gerard or Rick, remember that there are always treatment methods available no matter how severe the incontinence. Avoid suffering in silence and ensure you talk to a doctor or help line if you need further advice on managing incontinence.
You can visit our range of incontinence products here to make managing incontinence much easier.