Caring for loved ones: Incontinence in the family

Caring for a loved one or family member who has incontinence can be demanding. Establishing a management plan - or a routine for care - is one way to help you organize your time and resources so that you are better able to care not only for your loved one, but also for yourself.

For example, if you are taking your loved one out, make sure he or she has gone to the toilet before you leave the house. And carry absorbent products and wipes with you. Check for the locations of public toilets that are easily accessible, and visit them regularly.

Establishing a toileting routine with your family member is also a good idea. And it enables your loved one to tell you when she needs to urinate. Adult absorbent products could be helpful, particularly during the night, to avoid bedwetting.

If your loved one is using a medication for their incontinence, make sure you understand how to give it, how to store it, and how to manage any side effects that may occur.

If you are caring for someone who has suffered a stroke, or has nerve or neurological damage, it can be demanding, and a full-time job in some instances. Make sure that you get some time off on a regular basis, even if it's a few hours one or two afternoons a week. Arrange for home help for those times. And get out of the house. Go somewhere different - for a walk outside or to a movie - to give yourself a complete change of scene. While you may need the time to run errands, don't let that take up all your free time.

Maintaining your good health, as well as that of your family member, is very important. Finding support groups can be a tremendous help. Also, knowing when to ask for help is key. Make sure you get the answers you need. If you don't know or understand something, don't be afraid to ask your healthcare professional, and remember that no question is too insignificant or "dumb."

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