When people start to have urinary accidents, they first react not by reaching out to loved ones but by concealing and coping with their struggle themselves. The solitary nature of incontinence problems only exacerbates them, causing people to avoid activities they love and stress about having an accident again. There’s great shame tied up in this conversation, but there need not be. For those wondering how to talk to loved ones about incontinence, whether their own or a loved one’s, read this guide.
Noticing frequent bathroom trips, more declined invitations, and other subtle signs of incontinence warrant an intentional conversation with a loved one to help them manage symptoms well.
First, empathize with their situation and approach them with love and care. It’s so easy for them to blame themselves for their accidents, so steer clear of blaming them in any way. If they are to live with a high quality of life, they must be optimistic about coping rather than discouraged. Also, when you broach the subject, tailor it to their personality—you know whether they react better to subtle questions or direct honesty.
As you discuss their experiences, make absolutely clear they are not alone. Bring up the significant prevalence of urinary incontinence, particularly in older individuals. With an understanding of the numbers, they can start to think through the fact that many of their same-age peers likely have a urinary issue, too.
When having this conversation, it’s vital you don’t stop at acknowledging the problem. Press on to finding solutions for their future. Talk about including adult care products, such as incontinence pads and waterproof sheets.
In addition, to help with the emotional side of things, connect them with an incontinence support group, whether online or in-person. Commit to talking through their daily issues yourself too—as the person who broaches the topic, you hold a trusted role for future support.
When you want to talk to loved ones about your incontinence symptoms, deciding to tell them requires your vulnerability and self-prioritization.
Having the conversation about your recent bathroom issues exposes your weakness. It’s important you prepare to feel embarrassed given the nature of urinary issues. That said, embrace your bravery in taking this step as well. While you’re vulnerable in revealing this information, loving family and friends are the best people to support you and understand this information well.
Though it may feel terrible having the initial conversation, frame it as doing something for yourself to manage your incontinence symptoms. This frame shields you from some embarrassment and gives you a clear purpose going forward. As you move forward without shame, you can begin to do the things you love again with your loved ones’ assistance.