Tips to Reduce the Stress of Incontinence Caregiving

Incontinence is a very difficult condition to deal with for both the person with incontinence and their caregiver. As people age, their ability to control bladder and bowel functions can decrease for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the reason is reversible (such as a urinary tract infection). Other times, the situation can’t be changed. If you are caring for a loved one with incontinence, here are several tips to help reduce the stress on you and your loved one.

  1. Check with your loved one’s health care provider. For all new cases of bladder or bowel incontinence, get a physical examination to see if the cause is treatable. Even though your loved one may not have symptoms other than incontinence, there could be an underlying medical condition causing the problem.
  2. Follow expert advice. This may sound like common sense, but many sufferers fail to see doctors or follow through with prescribed regimens due to embarrassment. There are many causes of incontinence, make sure your loved one follows his or her doctor's directions.
  3. Watch your loved one’s diet. Some foods make both bladder and bowel incontinence worse. Avoid consuming caffeine (coffee, tea, and some sodas), chocolate, spicy foods, and a lot of fresh or dried fruit.
  4. Adopt a matter-of-fact approach. Care professionals use this technique to overcome a client’s shyness or embarrassment—and you can, too. Use reassurance and a straightforward manner: “Oh, that’s too bad you had an accident, but don’t worry. It happens to a lot of people. Let me help you get cleaned up and into some dry, comfortable clothes.” Taking a matter-of-fact approach helps reduce the stress on you and your loved one. After all, an episode of incontinence is an accident that’s hard for the individual to avoid and it’s not worth getting stressed-out over it.
  5. Be empathetic towards your loved one. Losing control of bodily functions ranks among the most stressful health issues, so approach the situation with patience and tact to ease your loved one’s anxiety. You may find it helps reduce your own stress level as well.
  6. Keep a positive attitude. Don’t allow feelings of helplessness or frustration to overwhelm your loved one. Instead, assist them to effectively address incontinence by taking ownership of these patterns. Staying homebound out of fear of public accidents or shame can lead to anxiety and magnify feelings of despair.
  7. Select clothes for your loved one that are easy to get on and take off. Slacks with an elastic waistband can be pulled down quickly, enabling your loved one to get on the toilet faster to help avoid an accident. If you do have to help your loved one with cleanup, easy-to-remove garments make it simpler for you to undress and re-dress them.
  8. Always be prepared. Being prepared is the key to living life with dignity. Pack a small tote bag with supplies such as incontinence briefs or pads, wipes and even a change of clothes in case an accident happens when you’re out and about together. Don’t allow your loved one to become a hermit because of incontinence issues.
  9. Try different incontinence products to find the best options for your loved one’s needs. It’s important to find the right products to address your loved one’s incontinence. Using the wrong products can be a bad experience and add to stress and frustration.
  10. Accept help if you need it. Many caregivers are willing to provide a wide variety of help to a loved one, but draw the line when it comes to dealing with incontinence. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to set this caregiving boundary. However, your loved one still needs to maintain personal hygiene, so don’t hesitate to call for reinforcements. Search out non-medical personal care services if you need help with your loved one’s incontinence, or if you are uncomfortable dealing with it. Many services are available through local county or religious organizations.

Being a caregiver to an individual with incontinence can feel overwhelming, but the tips provided here will help you alleviate concerns and prepare you for every situation.


Rely Medical Supply, Inc.
1705 Broadway St NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

Phone:  (888) 529-2308 / FAX:  (888) 838-0403
Monday - Friday: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Central Standard Time
Closed weekends and holidays.