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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