Patient Perspective: Julie's Story

Julie's Story - Caring For Her Incontinent Mother

I’ve always been close to my Mom, but after my Dad passed away 5 years ago, we became closer than ever. We talked on the phone every day and I checked in with her every weekend. She was still very active, even after Dad passed, and continued to play golf every month, meet her girlfriends for bridge and walk her dog two times a day.  All of this changed when she had a stroke.

Suddenly, my very independent Mother was unable to do most things for herself.  Without a second thought, I took her in and cared for her as much as possible as she began her slow path to recovery. It was a shock to suddenly watch a woman that I always looked to for guidance become suddenly, completely dependent on me.  

I’m not going to lie - it’s been difficult at times.  She has always been a very proud woman and to have to ask for help for things like using the bathroom, or worse, to need help cleaning up after an accident, was mortifying for her and uncomfortable for me.  

After some trial and error, we finally developed a rhythm with each other and learned which products worked best for day and night. Even though it’s hard, I’m so grateful to still have my mom with me, and I can’t thank organizations like NAFC enough for providing education on management options during this difficult time of life. Help is there if you need it - you just need to know where to look.  

Julie F., Tampa, FL

A Caregivers Guide To Keeping The Bed Dry

A Caregivers Guide To Keeping The Bed Dry

A Caregivers Guide To Keeping The Bed Dry

One of the most challenging things about being a caregiver to someone who has incontinence can be the mornings. Waking up each day to your loved one’s wet bed can be both physically and emotionally draining. No one likes to wash and change sheets each day, and knowing the discomfort (and likely embarrassment) that your loved one feels can be disheartening.  In fact, incontinence is often a big reason that older adults are placed into long-term care facilities.

The key to managing this problem is prevention. Having the right tools at your disposal will do wonders to help keep the bed dry and your loved one comfortable.  And remember, layers are your friend. They will help keep any leaks to a minimum and make clean up so much easier.

Here are some of our top tricks for keeping the bed dry and making your life a little easier.

  1. Zippered, Vinyl Waterproof Mattress Cover. This should go on the bed first and will help keep any moisture from getting on the mattress. After all, replacing a mattress is expensive, and getting lingering odors out of them is very hard. If you do nothing else, do this.
  2. Waterproof Mattress Pad. Use this as a second layer – it’s a softer, but still waterproof cover that will go over your vinyl cover.
  3. Waterproof Flat Sheet.  
  4.  Waterproof Underpad. You can use these both under, and on top of a flat sheet if you wish, and they can be disposable or washable. We recommend putting a large, sturdy, washable pad on the flat sheet, then topping that with a disposable pad that you can simply toss in the trash when needed.
  5. Use Layers Of Blankets Instead Of A Thick Comforter. These are easier to wash in the event of an accident.
  6. Disposable Absorbent Products. A good fitting disposable absorbent product is key. Find one for nighttime use (they’re more absorbent) and make sure the fit is good – you don’t want anything too tight or too lose, as it will lead to leaks. For a breakdown on what to look for, see our guide on absorbent products here.
  7. Skincare Protection. While this won’t protect your bedding, it will protect your loved one. Proper skincare protection can help keep skin from getting irritated or chapped due to accidents that happen during the night. 

Try these tips for a drier night, and happier morning. 

What tips do you have for a dry night? Share them with us in the comments below!

Tech Tips For Helping A Senior From A Distance

Tech Tips For Helping Seniors From A Distance

Tech Tips For Helping Seniors From A Distance

As we age, it’s normal to need a little help. Most seniors function just fine; it’s just that sometimes, support from loved ones can make a positive difference. That’s why you're ready to help your parents or senior friend.

Decades ago, you had to live near a senior in order to offer help. If you lived far away, there really wasn’t much you could do; however, technology has changed a lot since then.
These days, you can provide some form of assistance even if you live on the other side of the country. But before you can delve into tech like this, it helps to understand what kind of help seniors often need.

Problems Faced By Seniors

Lumen Learning has a free online course that describes the unique challenges faced by seniors. Some of these challenges include:

  • Financial problems brought on by less income and more healthcare expenses.

  • Ageism, or discrimination and prejudice based solely on the senior’s age.

  • Mistreatment or even abuse by people who should be providing care.

  • Loneliness and few opportunities to socialize.

  • Depression and similar mental health issues.

Of course, one of the biggest challenges seniors face is health. Thankfully, people are living longer than ever; the consequence of that is having more health problems. As Everyday Health explains, many seniors face the same medical conditions:

  • Arthritis

  • Heart disease

  • Cancer

  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

  • Osteoporosis

  • Diabetes

  • Disability issues

Apps & Sites To Help You Support Seniors

So how can you help your senior loved one manage these challenges when you live far away? With all of the advancement in technology these days, there are tons of apps, sites, and individual pieces of technology that can help you offer assistance no matter where you live.

For example, video chat can help alleviate loneliness and strengthen bonds between a senior and their family or loved ones. Video games can provide the mental stimulation needed to help fight dementia and can be a source of socialization. There are even health trackers that share information in real time. The beauty of this technology is that all of this can be done when you don’t live nearby.

Also, technology like this isn’t reserved just for you. There’s plenty of helpful technology your senior loved one can put to use. Some must-have technology for seniors include:

  • Tablets, smartphones, and iPads for photos, music, video chat, reading, and games.

  • Hearing aids to help with the loss of hearing that often comes with age.

  • Wireless home monitoring systems in case of medical emergencies.

  • Assistive technology such as LED lighting or stove shut-off systems.

  • Smart home technology that gives seniors the freedom to live independently.

Home Services

There are plenty of other ways to help besides providing tangible technology options. Did you know there are a variety of services available online that you can set up from your phone or computer?

For example, if your senior has difficulty getting to the grocery store, Caring.com lists meal delivery services that can provide regular groceries or complete meals delivered directly to their home.

If your senior loved one needs some extra help around the house, there are plenty of online options for housekeeping, pet sitting and lawn, and handyman services.

These are only a few of the options available, but they go to show that it’s easy to connect your senior loved one with the right kind of assistance through the touch of a button.

It’s challenging to take care of a senior from afar, but technology truly is making things so much easier. Once you’re familiar with the typical problems seniors face, you can help by providing your senior with technology that can boost their independence, or by using online services to give them some peace of mind and assistance. By incorporating the benefits of technology into your long-distance caregiving, you can stay connected and involved. In some ways, it might feel like you were never gone.

Our Best Tips For Disconnecting

Being a caregiver is often an around-the-clock job that demands a lot of energy, patience, and devotion. Remember to take the time to give yourself rest and relaxation.

Our best rule of thumb is preached before every plane takes off, “Assist yourself before assisting others.” If you don’t take care of your own body, you won’t be able to take care of others’. It's very important to carve out some time for yourself to relax and recharge.

Try our top three tips for disconnecting and relaxing:

1.    Go on a walk somewhere new.

Going to new places is always a great way to stretch your senses and try something different because a new place requires you to focus solely on your new environment.

Take a walk in a new place and soak up the fresh air and new location.

2.    Turn off your phone at a certain time every day. 

Get into a habit of turning off your phone at the same time every day so you can set a tone of unwinding and relaxing without screen time. Use this scheduling tactic to help you connect in the moment with people you’re with.

3.    Go to a coffee shop or quiet bookstore once a month on your own.

Stepping outside your environment helps you to relax without having all the normal distractions of home. Find a place near your home that offers a quiet, soothing atmosphere for you to relax with a book or a magazine. Make it your retreat every other week or once a month and commit to going.

We believe in settling down and taking stock in quiet time. How do you take care of yourself and disconnect?

Caring For An Incontinent Loved One Over the Holidays

Caring For An Incontinent Loved One Over The Holidays

The holidays are around the corner. These times are meant to be joyous and filled with opportunities to create long-lasting memories. However, for the person caring for someone with incontinence, it can be challenging and even overwhelming to balance all of the responsibilities needed to manage incontinence while preparing for holiday festivities. By planning ahead, caregivers and their loved ones can certainly find ways to get the most enjoyment out of the holiday season.

Establishing a good incontinence management plan and a solid routine for care is essential to keeping happy, healthy, and organized. By having a good plan, you will be better at providing care to your loved one and still have the time and energy to care for yourself and enjoy the people and festivities surrounding you.

Here are some tips to make your loved one feel comfortable.

1. Be prepared and involve your loved one in the preparation.

If you have the opportunity to take your loved one out, make sure to take them to the bathroom. Always pack extra incontinence products with you and even a change of clothes. It is important to reassure your loved one that you are prepared. Often the one suffering from incontinence can become distressed, depressed, or nervous about leaving for fear of becoming embarrassed or uncomfortable. Some may even feel as though they are burdening the one who is caring for them. Be sure to have a conversation prior to leaving to boost their confidence. This will ensure that they enjoy the outing as much as you will.

2. Evaluate the travel plan and map out as much as possible in advance.

Remember that your loved one will not know where public restrooms are. If you plan on taking your loved one to another persons home, be sure to locate the bathrooms immediately and make sure they are barrier free, easy to access, and safe.

3. Make sure there is a quiet place to retreat to.

Large crowds and noise can lead to anxiety, irritability, and exhaustion. Frequent breaks away from all of the chaos can help alleviate this. Plan for quiet time, rest, or even a nap. If your loved one starts to appear anxious, take them to the quiet area before the anxiety escalates. Monitor facial expressions and tone of voice throughout the day. Fidgeting, swaying, raising their voice, and restlessness are all signs of agitation. Whatever you do, do not become frustrated. Keep your cool and a good sense of humor.

4. Make sure your loved one participates in as many activities as possible.

Remember, you are not just caring for your loved one, you are making memories. Share photos, tell stories, sing songs. If your loved one is not capable of participating in any of those activities, try reading a holiday story with family and friends. This will be relaxing while keeping them engaged.

5. Be discreet.

When the time comes to provide personal care to your loved one, be discreet to avoid any embarrassment. Don’t announce to everyone that you are taking your loved one to the bathroom.  Make sure to discuss with friends and family members prior to arrival or pull them aside shortly after and explain what is going on and what you will be doing as to avoid any questions, comments, or concerns in the presence of your loved one.

6. Be prepared for meal time.

It is extremely important to provide dignified, discreet care. Be sure to take your loved one to the bathroom before dinner and do any incontinence product changes, personal care, or clothing changes. This will ensure that everyone gets to sit together and enjoy the meal and any discussion taking place. Having to excuse yourself from the table to take your loved one to the bathroom will only increase their anxiety and level of embarrassment.

7. Ask for help.

Additional help from another friend or family member can relieve the caregiving responsibilities throughout the holidays. If you do have someone helping you, be sure to notify the person you are caring for to avoid any confusion. Make sure they are equipped to provide the same care as you would. If you do not have anyone available to help you provide personal care for your loved one, perhaps they could help out in other ways.

8. Take the time to listen to your loved one.

Remember that someone suffering from incontinence can often feel lonely, depressed, and may even feel as though they have lost their independence. The holidays can escalate these feelings. Make sure to listen and keep an open line of communication with your loved one. Understand and take time to validate their feelings and initiate conversations about all of the positive things that are taking place around them. It is not uncommon for your loved one to feel as though they have lost their independence. Be sure to reinforce that you understand and that you will be there to help them.

It's important to care for yourself during this time too. Below are some tips to help you help yourself.

1. Be sure to take time for yourself.

Make sure you have scheduled yourself some down time on a regular basis, even if it is only for a few minutes. Go for a brisk walk, or enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, call a close friend, or even read a book

2. Stay healthy.

How you manage your health can affect your loved ones. Be sure to get plenty of rest.

3. Find additional support.

Find an online support group that specializes in incontinence. These groups can be of tremendous help to you.

4. Stay positive.

Caring for a loved one can be stressful. But just keeping an upbeat and steady attitude can go a long way in making the holidays a relaxing and enjoyable time for everyone.  Try to find ways to ease some of your tension, like squeezing in a couple of workouts, or finding some time to practice meditation.