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Carering for incontinent family members

Incontinence can happen at any stage of life. It may be short term or long term, mild or severe. And sometimes you need a little or a lot of help to deal with it. Carers sometimes have this responsibility, and being people too, may also need help. Caring for someone that is incontinent is a sensitive process, and being proactive provides the best result.

The type of support required will vary a lot, even if you’re a carer at home. A family member suffering from incontinence can create a challenge. It could be your child, mother, father or uncle, sister, grandparent, or even ‘other half’. Each case will be different, just like we’re all different. Individuals we are, and people with incontinence need individual care.

I’m really not incontinent!

Comfort and support

Incontinence can be stressful, especially if you need support. A major role of caring for someone with incontinence is to let them know, they’re not bad for having it. It’s such a common condition that it’s not taboo. Anyone can get it for many of reasons. And fortunately, there are ways to deal with it, and often get rid of it.

There are 2 basic steps to do . . . at least think of it as 2, it’s easier!

BASIC STEP 1

First of all, it’s extremely important to get advice and support from a health professional. Don’t muck around. You’re not an incontinence expert unless you’re actually an incontinence health professional. Get on to it straight away. If you don’t know where to start, call the Australian National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66. Talk to someone there or call your family doctor. The earlier the better, as it can be a sign of something worse. And anyway, get on the right path straight away.

So, you can get help from

• Your family doctor or health professional
• The Continence Foundation of Australia

Incontinence is not the flu. It looks and feels different. They might even put on a happy face to hide it. But it’s just as real.

BASIC STEP 2

Make your family member as comfortable as possible. No matter how you feel about them when they’re well! Let’s be honest, we’re not all cut out to be carers all the time but when we’re needed, we want to help. Have compassion. They’re struggling and unwell, even if they’re quiet. Incontinence is not the flu. It looks and feels different. Sometimes, it’s hidden, because it’s clearly private. But it’s just as real as any other sickness. For a start, make sure they are comfortable and dry, and the bed’s got waterproof clothes. If it’s looks like it’s going to be ongoing, think about investing in an incontinence mattress. This’ll save a lot of time, and will be much more manageable. And the mattress can be used all the time.

So, you need to

• Follow your treating doctor’s advice
• Use a quality waterproof mattress

Remember we’re all human

Yep, that ‘ol cliché is especially true when we’re in the role of carer. Just think of any time you needed help, from either a professional or family member. Maybe it was embarrassing or difficult to bring up, like being incontinent. But I bet you were glad to get support. It goes without saying, we’re all human and incontinence is just one of those things. With professional treatment, your comfort and support can make all the difference.

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