The Social and Emotional Impact of Incontinence

When people who have been ambulatory in everyday life and are suddenly are confronted with a stroke, accident injury or other experience find themselves bedridden on their back it causes a reality shock to them. The management of urine and bowel function creates an emotional and physical challenge that quickly impacts their mental state.

The issues of embarrassment, odor containment, morale, withdrawal, and avoidance of visitors begins the process of depression. Depression is treatable with medicines however; complications of constipation and further physical changes in bowel function create more social issues to be managed. Anticholonergic medications to treat depression induce constipation that then requires stool softeners be prescribed to create bowel movements. These same medications alter other body functions by causing pupil dilation of the eyes and blurred vision as a result of paralysis of ocular accommodation. The inability to read clearly is another new functional change new to the person who has become bedfast and depresses. Diarrhea is a frequent concomitant of this combination of methods to deal with the function of the bowel. The desired balance of bowel function that is normal in healthy individuals is now in a state of induced unpredictable imbalance..

The person has now reached the first stage of concern for continence and or incontinence care.

Click here to read more about the stages of continence and incontinence.

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Bowel Incontinence and Aging

At a Glance

Many things happen as we age that makes accidental leakage or a loss of bowel control more likely.

Illness, injury, changes in bowel habits and other factors affect the ability to stay in control.

Loss of bowel control is surprisingly common. It happens to a lot of people.

There are a number of ways to be helped.

This article will help you understand what is wrong and what you can do about it.

Continence, our control over when and where we go to the bathroom, is something most of us learn at an early age. We generally take it for granted – until something goes wrong. “Incontinence” is the word used to describe loss of this control.

Bowel incontinence occurs when the loss of control of gas, liquid stool, or solid stool is enough to cause discomfort or distress. Urinary incontinence is the loss of control of urine from the bladder. Bowel incontinence is a sign that something is wrong – some part of the bowel control system is not working as it should.

Having an episode of bowel incontinence can be very upsetting. People often feel so embarrassed when this happens to them that they do not tell anyone about it, not even their spouse or doctor.

It is common for persons who suffer this to go to lengths to hide the condition. As a result, they may stop doing many of the things they enjoy; they may experience a loss of personal freedom. They may feel many parts of their life slipping away – and they may not receive the help they need.

If you experience bowel incontinence, here are three important things to know:

  1. You are not alone – many people have this condition
  2. You do not have to just, “live with it”
  3. You can find help, and ways to treat and manage the condition

Causes of incontinence

Incontinence has many causes. It is not a normal part of aging, but as you age, you may be more at risk for the condition.

In order to maintain bowel control, the pelvic area must work correctly. If not, incontinence may occur. Injury or illness can cause a loss of normal function and bowel control. Physical limitations or disabilities, and poor general health are key factors that can play a role.

Nerves must function correctly to sense the urge to have a bowel movement or the presence of gas in the rectum. Muscles must function correctly to hold in the rectal contents.

Nerve damage that occurs in diseases like multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or stroke can play a part in incontinence. Injury, from accidents, pregnancy, or other trauma, can also damage nerves and muscles.

Conditions that strain normal function – such as diarrhea or constipation – may also cause leakage or loss of control. These are just a few examples. Clearly, many conditions that affect men and women may result in loss of bowel control.

The effect of age on continence

Diseases or injuries are not the only risks for incontinence. As you age, many physical changes will occur naturally. These changes have an effect throughout the body including on the organs, nerves, and muscles that control continence. Muscles will loose their strength, some nerves will function less well, and tissue and organs will loose some of their ability to stretch.

The bowel control system

Many things must happen in the body so that you know when you need to have a bowel movement (or pass gas) and are able to hold it in until you decide when and where to empty. The rectum is a tube shaped organ at the end of the colon that stores stool. As the rectum fills, it stretches to have room for the stool moving from the colon. You normally will feel when stool fills the rectum; you will have the sensation of the urge, or need, to have a bowel movement. Muscles around the rectum will tighten to hold in the stool.

If the muscles around the rectum are weak, you may feel a sudden and very strong urge and need to rush to the toilet. Stool may leak before you reach the toilet.

If nerves are damaged, you may not know when stool is present. The urge to have a bowel movement may not be felt and you make leak stool without even feeling it.

Seepage of stool may also occur if the muscles around the rectum do not work right. If the rectum does not stretch, it will not be able to store enough stool and incontinence can result.

Excerpt from IFFGD – click here to read more

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Incontinence and Relationships

Many otherwise healthy people suffer from bowel incontinence or accidental bowel leakage. Symptoms that are distressing and hard to talk about can isolate a person and restrict inter-personal relations.

Relationships – with friends, family, doctors, and caregivers – are one of the most important things in contributing to how well a person with incontinence is able to overcome the obstacles imposed by the condition, and carry on with normal daily living.

Relationships which provide understanding allow people to feel empowered. They are better able to contend with the every day challenges of living with incontinence. People are more likely to be empowered when they’re able to express themselves and receive support.

It takes courage for a person to say that they experience incontinence. To be met with disinterest or a lack of understanding only heightens feelings of hopelessness or isolation. These issues create challenges to maintaining and building relationships that people face who suffer from incontinence.

Forging a strong relationship takes work on both sides. Here are some pointers on how to ensure that your relationships are strong and supportive.

For care givers and family members

Recognize that, in most cases, the person is unable to control this. People with incontinence go to great lengths to hide this and to avoid an embarrassing situation. The energy spent trying to manage this so that other people won’t know can be enormous. People become physically and emotionally tired from having to act as if everything is “just fine.”

It is important to listen. Many people with incontinence just need an outlet to express their frustration. They need to be able to work through the levels of grief that are associated with the loss they feel.

People with incontinence should not be made to feel bad about themselves, shamed, or embarrassed even in a joking way. Humor can be uplifting, but only if the person has come to terms with the condition. There is nothing funny about incontinence for the person who lives with it every day.

People with incontinence need to be prepared. It may mean wearing protective undergarments. It helps to have clean-up supplies and extra clothes available at all times. Wearing a protective undergarment is difficult to accept. People will avoid wearing them as long as possible. There is a sense of denial that exists with incontinence. Wearing a protective undergarment means acknowledging, and no longer denying, the incontinence.

Reassurance of access to restroom facilities is important. The first thing to do, when somewhere outside the home, is to identify where the restroom is and assure easy access.

It is important to be flexible. Plans may need to be changed at the last minute. If the person with incontinence does not feel comfortable leaving home, they should not be forced to do so. Tomorrow may well be a better day.

Excerpt from IFFGD (International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders)- Click here to read more.

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What is Incontinence?

“Incontinence” is the word used to describe loss of control over when and where we go to the bathroom. Bowel incontinence occurs when the loss of control of gas, liquid stool, or solid stool is enough to cause discomfort or distress. Incontinence is a sign that something is wrong – some part of the bowel control system is not working as it should.

If you experience bowel incontinence, here are two important things to know:

  1. You are not alone – many people have this condition
  2. You do not have to just “live with it.” You can find help, and ways to treat and manage the condition
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10 Signs of Caregiver Stress

Stress of a Caregiver
As a caregiver, you may at times feel overwhelmed by the emotional strains and physical demands of trying to balance caregiving with work and family. Knowing that your loved one has a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s that won’t get better can contribute even more to your mental burden.

Neglecting yourself may in fact hurt the person you’re trying to help. Research suggests that the well-being of both the caregiver and the person being cared for are deeply intertwined.

If you can get help relieving your caregiving burden, you may be able to provide more quality care to a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, for example, which may lead to less troubling behaviors typical of someone with dementia. Helping your loved one improve his or her self-care may in turn help ease some of your physical and emotional stress.

Below are 10 signs and symptoms of caregiver stress:

  1. Denial about the disease and its impact on the person affected
  2. Anger toward the person you’re caring for
  3. Social withdrawal, not wanting to stay in touch with friends or participate in activities you once enjoyed
  4. Anxiety about facing another day and what the future holds
  5. Depression, feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  6. Exhaustion and feeling that you barely have the energy to complete daily tasks
  7. Sleeplessness, trouble falling asleep, waking repeatedly at night, having nightmares and stressful dreams
  8. Irritability or emotional overreactions, such as getting upset or crying over minor incidents
  9. Lack of concentration, trouble focusing and completing complex tasks
  10. Health problems, such as backaches, headaches, high blood pressure, weight loss or weight gain and getting sick more often (colds, flu)

Excerpt from John Hopkins Health Alerts – click here to learn more

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