Talking to a loved one about Incontinence or Urine Leaks- How to Go About It

Talking to a loved one about Incontinence or Urine Leaks- How to Go About It

Urinary Incontinence — A sudden leakage of urine. A common condition that affects up to 400 million people in the world and Singapore is no stranger to it either. Up to 40% of the population in Singapore has experienced urine leaks - a significant proportion which increases with age, yet we keep the conversation in the shadows. Talking about incontinence can be a difficult subject to bring up, especially around your loved ones, but giving them your support and showing it will help your loved ones tremendously.

The stigma surrounding incontinence and urine leakage is heavily ingrained in Singapore’s society, with a lack of open dialogue about the underlying conditions and issues. Sometimes, when facing urine leaks, those experiencing it are met with scrutiny and judgment which further adds to their hesitance to talk openly about their challenges with urine leaks. From an article published by the British Bladder & Bowel Community (BBUK), it notes that incontinence can disrupt social interactions and lead to perceptions of weakness and dependency. These societal attitudes can prevent individuals from seeking the help they need, further entrenching the problem.

So, how do we approach a loved one with urinary incontinence? First, we need to establish that the condition is often seen as embarrassing, so when we first bring up the topic to our loved one, we need to be as gentle and compassionate as possible. Here are some strategies that could help you get the ball rolling:

Be compassionate:

When faced with a life-altering condition, the affected party could show emotions of sadness and embarrassment and would often not like to discuss their conditions with you. Incontinence, while not life threatening, can have a negative impact on their social and emotional well-being.To start, recognise that discussing incontinence may be uncomfortable for your loved one and approach the topic with compassion. Show them that you do not find their condition embarrassing but is a common condition affecting millions around the world. 

Normalize the Condition:

Though incontinence is a prevalent issue in the world, not just Singapore; many still do not know about its existence and how it can impact one’s life. Your loved one may be thinking the same as well, so they would think that they are struggling with a condition that is not only embarrassing but that no one else has. It is important to educate them that many people in the world and in Singapore face this issue - incontinence affects large swathes of the population, from older adults, those with existing medical conditions, a consequence of certain pregnancies and many more. 

Provide Reassurance: 

When facing incontinence, the affected person may feel a loss of control and that their lives are now dictated by this condition. However, this is not the case. Being a widely spread issue around the world, there are many products and treatments that will help with their condition Reassure your loved one that there are many ways to manage urine leaks — like exercises so simple they can be done on the couch while watching TV like kegels, discreet products like Adult Pull Up Pants, pads and liners which can absorb urine flow, and specific supplements which helps strengthen the bladder.  

Share Information: 

Although many do not know of this condition’s existence, there is a lot of information on the internet that is not only informative but helps to put in perspective just how common incontinence is. From detailed articles on how to manage urinary incontinence to extensive research on the condition itself, the internet is one of the best places to find out more about the condition and how to tackle it. Sharing information about urinary incontinence will help reassure them that the condition has been heavily researched and studied with a lot of solutions available to them.

Suggest Practical Solutions:

As we all know, actions speak louder than words, and sometimes that is all your loved one needs to know. There are numerous practical ways that your loved one can embark to improve their bladder control and one of the most common ways is to perform Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT), also known as Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises are a type of exercise that helps to strengthen pelvic muscles, which in turn, improves bladder control. Incontinence products are also widely available that your loved ones could use. However, when suggesting these products, it is important to note that your loved one has to pick Incontinence products — such as adult diapers, adult pull up pants, pads and liners which specifically absorb urine — and not opt for sanitary pads for menstrual blood as they have a much lower absorbance capacity than them.

Encourage Medical Consultation: 

Going to the doctor will always be frightening when met with any type of condition, especially if you have no knowledge of what it is. Sometimes, your loved ones may not even want to see a medical professional in fear of having their condition known to their family and friends. However, it is always appropriate that your loved one see a medical professional to properly diagnose them and find what are the best treatment options available. Encourage them that seeking medical help is the best way forward, and would help speed up the recovery process. Reassure them that many people have sought medical help for urinary incontinence and that they are not alone on this. 

Respect Their Decisions:

Even with all these strategies, it is extremely important to recognise that your loved one needs to be the one in control of their decisions. With incontinence, many individuals often feel a loss of control which can affect their mental well-being negatively. So, by respecting their decisions, be it small or large, you will be giving them space to feel in control and overall improve their quality of life.

While these strategies are essential to providing all the support you can to your loved one with incontinence, the stigma surrounding the topic is what prevents people from sharing their condition to their loved ones. It is paramount that, to fully support our loved ones, we need to be open-minded about this condition and shed the embarrassment about this topic. This is the only way:  by providing them with information, encouraging their visits to doctors, and being compassionate and understanding, will the stigma disappear and incontinence will be an easier condition to talk about!

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