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Three Tips to Make the Incontinence Conversation Easier

A caregiver pushes a wheelchair with an elderly person in it.

Sometimes you have a resident who just doesn’t want to admit that they’re having an issue with incontinence. While they may not want to discuss what they consider a private or personal matter with you, as an Adult Family Home provider, your resident’s care and comfort is a paramount concern for you to say nothing of the time and effort that cleanup can take. Talking to someone about incontinence care can be awkward, even for seasoned professional caregivers who have discussed health issues of all sorts with their residents. Here are three simple tips to help get the conversation going if you feel stuck.

Empathy is Key

A common hurdle that caregivers face is denial or stubbornness from the resident. Often, the cause of this is the resident feeling like their opinions are not being heard. One expert recommends that you

Try to avoid statements that tell…how they should feel, such as stating, “You should not be embarrassed to discuss this.” A better beginning might be, “I understand that incontinence may be an embarrassing topic to discuss, but there is a lot that can be done to reduce urinary symptoms…”
from “How to Talk to Your Patients about Overactive Bladder” by the Urology Care Foundation.

Words like “should” or “ought to” can make the resident feel like you’re dictating to them how they should react, and this can cause them to dig in their heels. Taking an empathetic approach instead can open them up to ideas that they may otherwise reject.

Dispel Misconceptions

It’s a commonly held belief that incontinence is an unavoidable part of aging, but this is not the case. While there are aspects of aging that can contribute to incontinence, not every aging person becomes incontinent. Someone in desperate need of incontinence supplies may be in denial about their situation because they think it is a sign that they’re aging. Dispelling this myth can go a long way towards helping your resident feel comfortable using items such as pads, pull-ups, and briefs that they might otherwise be resistant to using. The different types of urinary incontinence—stress incontinence, urge incontinence, mixed incontinence, overflow incontinence, post-micturition dribble, neurological bladder disorder, and functional incontinence—all have different causes, and not all of them are age-related.

Call in Backup

It’s also possible that your resident may feel more comfortable speaking with a doctor or nurse about incontinence. If you believe that this may be the case for your resident, you may want to mention that sometimes incontinence is a temporary symptom of a treatable condition. Only a medical professional would be able to make that assessment, so it’s important to talk about any symptoms they’ve experienced at their next appointment. A doctor can also write a prescription for appropriate incontinence supplies for the type of incontinence ( your resident is experiencing, which can help shift the cost off you or your resident and onto insurance or Medicaid/Medicare.

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