Learning To Open Up To Family And Friends About Incontinence

Learning To Open Up To Family And Friends About Incontinence

Talking about incontinence is hard for many people.  Even talking to a doctor can be challenging: on average, people wait 7 years before even seeking help for this condition.  But sometimes opening up can be the best thing you can do to begin the process of moving past your embarrassment and moving on to treatment.  

But how do you start? And whom do you start with?  Our advice is simple: find someone you trust and whom you think will be supportive. Many times this is a spouse or a partner, or a close friend or family member.  You don’t need to shout about your bladder leaks from the rooftops – often just telling one person helps to unleash the burden you’ve been carrying around and can help give voice to the anxiety and worry that has been racing around in your head.

Here are some great tips to follow when starting the conversation: 

1. Set the conversation up by letting them know that you need their support.  Some ways to start the conversation might be:

  • “I’ve been dealing with a health issue for a while and could really use someone to talk to about it. Can I talk to you?”

  • “I have a condition that’s really been getting me down. Do you have a moment to talk?”

  • “As a close friend/spouse/family member, I know that you are supportive of me. Can I talk openly to you about an issue I’ve been experiencing?”

 2. Be open.  If you’re going to talk to them, then make sure you’re being open and honest.  We know talking to others about your own bladder leakage can be hard, but if you’re really talking to someone close to you, they’ve likely suspected something was up for a while.  Let them know not just the issue, but how it’s been making you feel. 

3. Tell them what you need from them.  Are you talking to them because you don’t want to hide the problem anymore? Do you need some help researching treatment options? Are you asking for their advice on what to do? Or do you just want a sounding board to help get some things off your chest? Whatever the case may be, help them be there for you by letting them know what you expect from them.

Opening up can be hard, but it’s healthy to talk about the things that are bothering you.  And, if you feel that you don’t have anyone close to you to discuss the issue (or even if you do!), make an appointment with your doctor. He or she will be able to give you sound advice and treatment recommendations. And, it’s likely that he’s been in that seat before with other patients, so he knows just what you’re going through.   

Need help finding a physician? Visit our Find A Specialist Tool!

Patient Perspective: Debbie's Story

Debbie's Story - Supporting Her Husband With Incontinence

My husband suffers from incontinence. He has for years. He never thought I knew, but I noticed when he would rush to the bathroom with a change of underwear. I watched as he consistently sought out the restrooms anywhere we went. And I definitely noticed the changed bed sheets when I would come home from work due to leaks the previous night. 

I wanted so badly to help him. To talk with him about it. To tell him that I understand and that it is ok. But how do you tell an ex-army man whose very core is built on pride and being strong that you’re concerned about him wetting himself?

So, I stayed silent for years, and so did he, until finally he couldn’t anymore. We were out to dinner with friends when he had an accident, and had forgotten to bring along a spare pair of underwear. Panicked, he made up an excuse for us to leave immediately, and finally broke down in the car, telling me what I had known for years.

He was so ashamed, but I did my best to show him that I was supportive and didn’t think any less of him because of it. In the end, telling me was the best thing that could have happened, since I finally was able to help him.

We made an appointment to go see a doctor together, and he learned the many options available to him for treatment. He’s doing so much better now.

And though he still has some occasional leaks, he knows that he has me to lean on and doesn’t have to live with the stress of constantly trying to hide it.

I only wish I could have given him the courage to speak up sooner.
 
Debbie R., Omaha, NE

Patient Perspective: Brad's Story

Brad's Story - Opening Up About Incontinence

My friends and I are close. Growing up in a small town, we’ve always been there for each other – to joke with, lean on in hard times, and to razz each other. We have a tight-knit group of 5 and they’ve been my chosen family since I was 12. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since our early days, but here we all are.

I experienced incontinence after having my prostate removed in 2013. It wasn’t a fun thing to go through, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it, but the one thing that made it easier was that I knew to expect it – and that I wasn’t the only one.

You see, one of my buddies in our group, Joe, had also gone through something similar a few years back. He pulled me aside before surgery and told me that the worst thing that was going to happen was that I’d probably have some leaks – maybe a lot. It had happened to him for at least a year after his surgery and he said it was “hell “.

But he told me that the thing that had made it worse was not knowing it was coming, That was why he was talking to me – he wanted to me to know that I wasn’t alone. And, if it weren’t for his advice and pick-me-up talks, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that first year.

I’ve recovered well and don’t really experience the leaks anymore. But I still talk about it. Because that’s what we should all do with those we are close to. You never know who might benefit from your experience, or who might also go through something similar and just need a friend or to know they are not alone.

Don’t let your own embarrassment get in the way of opening up to your loved ones. I’m sure glad Joe didn’t.
 
Brad T., Auburn, AL

Patient Perspective: Samuel's Story

Samuel's Story - Getting Help For Incontinence, Enlarged Prostate

How many of you men have incontinence? How many of you would admit if you did?  It’s a hard thing to come to terms with as a man. I know, because I’m one of the "lucky ones" who has been hit with this condition.

I had been noticing the need to use the bathroom more frequently for a while, but didn’t think much of it until I was on vacation with my wife a few years ago. We were in DC, walking around, being the typical tourists, when I suddenly felt the need to go. I wasn’t totally familiar with the area, and it was crowded, so it took me a while to find a bathroom. Unfortunately, it took me too long. I leaked – just a little bit, but enough to be able to tell. Luckily, I had a sweatshirt with me so I just wrapped it around my waist and told my wife we needed to head back to the hotel.

I was so embarrassed. She didn’t understand what had happened until we got back and saw that I needed to change my pants. And even then, it was hard for either of us to comprehend what had happened – I’m a grown man! I shouldn’t be wetting myself. We both brushed it off as a fluke and went on with the rest of our trip.

But a few weeks later at the gym, it happened again. And then again while doing some yard work at home. I started to feel like my body was betraying me. Why was this happening? I didn’t tell my wife that the problem had persisted until a few months later, when it was clear that I would need to get some help. She was so understanding and helpful. She did some research online to see what may be causing it and the treatment options available, helped me find a urologist to talk to, and even came with me to my appointment.

I’m happy to say that after talking to the doctor and getting treatment, I’m doing much better. Turns out I had an enlarged prostate so I’m on medication for that and it’s greatly reduced the need to run to the bathroom every five minutes, not to mention the leaks.

This has been a very humbling experience, but I’m glad that I opened up to my wife about it and that she was so understanding and helpful. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to get to a doctor about this had it not been for her pushing me along. Now, I’m leak free and am able to travel, workout and do pretty much what I want again without having to worry.

Samuel M., Cheyenne, WY

Patient Perspective: Alice's Story

Alice's Story - Standing up to bladder leaks

It’s a funny thing, aging. I’m 68 years old, but I don’t feel any different than I did at 20. It happens so gradually really, but it feels like it comes out of nowhere. One day, you’re sitting there with your whole life ahead of you, and then suddenly, you’re walking along, you glance at your reflection and you see an old woman looking back at you. But you don’t feel any different. At least I didn’t. Until I started having bladder leaks.

My bladder leaks crept up on me just like getting old did. I had a few accidents here and there after kids, but didn’t start really noticing them regularly until I was in my late 50’s. I told myself I was too young to have this problem; that they weren’t that big of a deal and that I could manage it on my own.

The truth is, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know about my leakage problem. I hid it well, or so I thought, but after a while, it started to weigh on me. Always packing a spare change of clothes, always scouting out the nearest bathroom in case of an emergency. It wasn’t until my daughter finally confronted me that I broke down.

I was visiting her at her house when I had an accident and had to change my pants. My daughter noticed and finally decided that enough was enough. She told me how she had watched me for years try to “hide” my problem, and urged me to get help. She also told me how she herself had talked with her doctor after her son was born and she had started experiencing leaks too. “The good news,” she said, “is that I’m doing so much better, and I hardly have any leaks at all anymore. I want that for you too, Mom.”

Talking to my daughter really opened up my eyes. She was right, and I couldn’t believe I had spent so long trying to hide the issue. Worse, I couldn’t believe she had gone through it too. If I had been open about it, maybe I could have offered some comfort to her, but instead she had had to deal with it on her own. I felt ashamed and embarrassed – not because of my bladder leaks, but because of my silence.

So, I decided to finally get help. After so many years of living with the problem, I didn’t realize how much it had taken over my life. And now that I’ve started taking medication for my bladder leaks, I am so much happier and freer.

I am 68, but the 20 year old still lives inside of me. And now, I can proudly say that I feel just as good today as I did back then.

Don’t wait to get help. Take the initiative to talk to your doctor and get the help you need. We can’t all do this alone and life is too short to let a day go by where this condition is controlling you. Suck up your pride, realize that we all need some help once in a while and just do it. I promise you, you’ll be so glad you did.

Alice B., San Jose, CA

Ask The Expert: How Do I Talk With My Husband About His Incontinence?

How Do I Talk With My Husband About His Incontinence

Question:  My husband of 47 years has recently started experiencing incontinent episodes. He’s a very proud man and doesn’t want to admit them to me, but it’s starting to become a problem due to the increased laundry, smell and his overall depressed attitude about it. How can I get him to open up and talk with me about it?

 

Answer:  This is a common problem in marriages, especially pertaining to men. Most men don’t want to admit they have a problem with bladder control. They feel ashamed, and hate the idea of wearing protection. He may never come out and admit it to you on his own, so here are some tips to broach the subject with him:

1. Make him feel comfortable.

As you’ve already figured out, incontinence is a very uncomfortable subject for your husband. Make him feel at ease and approach him about his bladder leakage in a way that is not threatening or accusatory. Find some neutral territory and talk to him at a time when he feels good. Don’t try to broach this subject right after he’s had an accident.  That will only make him feel more embarrassed and ashamed.

2. Show him that you are understanding and want to help him with his bladder leakage.

Before you talk with him, do a little research on incontinence and learn what may be causing the issue. Did he just have prostate surgery? Is there something else that has changed recently that could be contributing to his accidents? Read about the causes, and the many different treatment options and management strategies for bladder leakage. Show him that there are ways to manage the condition and that he doesn’t have to just live with it. Let him know that you care about him and want to help. Show him that you are a team so that he doesn’t feel so alone.

3. Encourage him to seek treatment for his incontinence.

Incontinence can often be a symptom of an underlying condition. Let your husband know that you want him to talk with a doctor to make sure that there is nothing serious going on, and to help him get the problem under control. He may be resistant to speaking with his doctor, but press on (slowly). The sooner he confronts his incontinence with a professional, the sooner he can begin treatment and start feeling like himself again. (Find a specialist in your area with our Specialist Locator.)

4. Be his advocate for care.

Because your husband is so embarrassed about his incontinence, you may need to be his voice when seeking out treatment options. Help him research incontinence so that you both can learn more about it. Write out questions that he can bring with him to the doctors office to ensure he doesn’t forget anything important. Be sure to voice any concerns over treatment options. And help him stay the course on his path to treatment.

5. Introduce him to the NAFC message boards.

The NAFC message boards are a great place for your husband to explore and ask questions – anonymously! There are many people on the boards who may be experiencing the same things he is who he can talk to. Plus, with so many people dealing with incontinence in the same spot, there are lots of learnings and tips he may be able to pull from to help his own situation. (As an aside, the message boards may also be a great spot for you to do some research too.  Talk with other caregivers to get some ideas. Or ask other men living with incontinence how you might be able to best approach your husband about the topic.)

It’s never easy talking about incontinence to a loved one – especially men. But by being a caring and supportive spouse, you’ll show your husband that you are in his corner, and that you are there to help. Good luck!

Four Tips On How To Date When You Have Incontinence

Four Tips On How To Date When You Have Incontinence

Having incontinence can put a damper on a lot of activities for many.  Some people are so scared that they will have an accident they won’t leave their home, let alone go out with friends or on dates.  If this sounds like you, you should know that there are things you can do to treat your incontinence, and tricks you can use to survive the dating world. 

Here are our top four tips on dating when you have incontinence.

1. Know Your Options. 

Being educated about what treatment options are available to you is half the battle.  Make an appointment with a doctor to talk about your symptoms and find a solution that’s right for you.  Don’t be scared of this step – your doctor can educate you on many types of treatments, ranging from very conservative, non-invasive approaches to more advanced options such as surgery. Once you start treating your incontinence, you’ll gain more confidence in your ability to go out without having to worry about leaks.

2. Change up your habits. 

Avoid indulging in bladder irritating foods when out and about to lessen the risk it will cause an accident.  Things like alcohol and caffeinated items are high on this list. Keeping a bladder diary for a couple of weeks can help you identify your triggers so that you know what you need to avoid in social situations.

3. Plan ahead. 

Know where the closest restrooms are so that if you need to head there in a hurry you won’t lose time searching around.  It can also be helpful to have an extra change of clothes on hand just in case an accident does happen.  Keep a spare in your bag or car for emergencies.

4. Be open with those you love. 

Thinking about being intimate when you have incontinence can be nerve-wracking, but opening up to your partner can help ease the tension and take a weight off your shoulders.  Talk to them before you’re in a situation to have sex so they know what to expect.  If they get hung up on it, chances are they aren’t worth your time anyway.  However, you’ll likely find that being open and honest with them will help you both relax a bit and will create an even more trusting and caring relationship.

Don’t let incontinence limit your social life.  Learning how to treat and manage it, and knowing your personal triggers, will give you the confidence to get out there and start living a more connected – and full – life.  

How To Talk About Incontinence With Your Loved One

How To Talk About Incontinence With Your Loved One

Talking about incontinence is never easy.  Whether you are the one experiencing it, or someone close to you has been exhibiting symptoms, it is a conversation that most dread.  However, sharing this struggle with a loved one is perhaps one of the best things you can do in your path to recovery.  With a little advanced planning, a deep breath, and some honesty you’ll be able to get past this and move on to the next (and more productive) phase of this struggle – treatment.

How To Talk About Incontinence With A Loved One

When you’re the one struggling with incontinence.

Believe it or not, you may actually be on the easier end of this conversation. As embarrassing as it may feel to open up to someone about this, if you are ready to do so, you have likely accepted that this has become a problem and are ready to receive support. And who better to provide that support than a trusted friend or loved one? 

Opening up to someone may not only provide you with the physical help you need, but also lift an emotional weight off your shoulders. You don’t have to suffer through this alone.

When your loved one has incontinence.

If you’ve been noticing that a loved one seems to be having problems with incontinence, it may be time to talk with them about it to see how open they are to treatment. This can sometimes be difficult – it is very likely that the person knows they have a problem, but may be too embarrassed to talk to anyone or do anything about it. 

Depending on your relationship, it can also be hard for your loved one to admit. For instance, a father who is cared for by his son or daughter may feel too proud to discuss this with his kids. Start the conversation slowly by asking them about their general health, then move on to some of the signs of incontinence that you’ve noticed.

Be prepared – they may get defensive and try to hide the problem. If that happens, try again. Be patient with them and try to be as accepting and understanding as possible. In time, they will likely open up to you once they see that your intentions are good and you are there to support them.

Our last tip?  Get some advice from those who have been there and understand.  As life changing as it may be, you are not the only one in the world who has ever struggled with this condition.  Whether you are looking to reach out to others who are experiencing it, or others who care for an incontinent loved one, there are many people out there who are discussing their problems on message boards and online forums.  Check out the NAFC message boards to get some tips on how others have touched on this delicate subject.

ASK THE EXPERT: HOW DO I TALK TO MY LOVED ONE ABOUT INCONTINENCE?

How Do I Talk To My Loved One About Incontinence

Question: I’ve had a hard time discussing my father’s incontinence with him - he is so embarrassed by it and never wants to address it. How can I bring the subject up without making him uncomfortable?

Answer:  Caring for a parent with incontinence can be very hard.  After all, you’ve both played opposite roles for most of your life, with your parent providing most of the care for you. When a parent becomes dependent on their child, and especially when they are experiencing something like incontinence, it can make them feel ashamed and embarrassed. They may try to hard to hide their incontinence, or brush off mention of it and try to avoid the subject all together.

Start slowly. Discuss their health and condition and then talk to them about some of the incontinence symptoms you’ve witnessed.  Be patient - they may have some reservations in discussing their problem with you at first. But give them some time - once they feel comfortable, they’ll open up to you and you’ll be able to work on a management plan together.