The emotional impact of incontinence

Living with incontinence is physically challenging and can be exhausting for many. As Health care professionals you are used to dealing with the complex ’physical issues’ however, equally important is the psychological status of your clients or patients.

The emotional impact of incontinence

The emotional stages of incontinence can mirror grief, which is not surprising given it’s often the symptom of deterioration due to age, disability or disease, and can substantially affect quality of life. 

Some may also be in denial and not ready to discuss how it is impacting their life.

Sometimes it can take a long time to for someone with incontinence to seek help and raise the topic with a health care professional, this is mostly due to the stigma and embarrassment associated with this condition, but some well-placed questions can assist them to discuss this with you.– see how to discuss incontinence 

Delicate subject to discuss

The following statements may help alleviate the feelings of embarrassment, depression, anxiety, loneliness and shame that many may be feeling but not expressing.

Some non-judgmental statements that offers empathy that can be used are:

I understand:

• it is hard to live with
• it can be embarrassing
• it can be relentless
• it can affect confidence and self esteem 
• it can affect your desire to socialize or exercise
• that the fear of an accident is real
• it can be hard to discuss with loved ones
• it can affect sexual relationships
• it can be overwhelming knowing how to manage it
• it can be very frustrating and make you angry
• it can make you feel unclean or unsexy
• it can be difficult to change behavior

The type of language above can be adjusted depending if the incontinence is temporary, permanent, new or long standing. 

Time poor professionals can be focused on the ’immediate’ issues that are presented, however by trying to be mindful of expressing some kind words that show real empathy, you could really help change the behavior or the mindset of someone struggling.  Even using one of the phrases above could be a very powerful message to a patient or client and could completely change their day or outlook.

Further help is available

Help for Individuals: Beyond Blue Website Helpline 1300 22 463
Help for Carers AU: Carers Australia Website  Helpline: 1800 242 636
Help for Carers NZ: Carers New Zealand Website  Helpline: 0800 777 797
Sane Australia has some great tips for family or carers of people with mental health issues