The holiday season is upon us and if you are living with urinary incontinence, you may be feeling a little anxious about being out and about with friends and family. But incontinence does not have to control your life. An active and social life is not only healthy and provides a sense of well-being, but also physical activity can actually improve incontinence. .
You want to avoid accidents but the fear of having one consumes you. It is easy to be preoccupied with searching for bathrooms everywhere you go, never straying too far. This fear and anxiety prevent people from participating in social activities they enjoy. When withdrawing from these activities, depression can easily set in.
Many people think incontinence is normal as we age. This is a myth. Incontinence can be caused by many different things. Each type of incontinence can be managed and treated in different ways. Here are some suggestions to help with incontinence.
First, see your doctor for an evaluation. Most will start with a primary care physician. The primary doctor may send you to a urologist. A urologist specializes in the urinary tract. He/she will discuss treatment options based on your type of incontinence.
If traveling for the holidays, plan ahead. You can map out your stops if traveling by car. If you travel by train, bus or plane, choose a seat near the restroom.
When you do go out, wear disposable absorbent pads, liners, briefs, or underwear. This will keep your clothing dry while avoiding an embarrassing moment. It will also reduce the stress of having to find a bathroom in a hurry. These products help boost your confidence.
Be prepared. Always carry supplies in a small bag or backpack. Supplies include extra-absorbent products (briefs, pads, liners), cleansing wipes, skin barrier creams, a plastic bag for soiled products, and an extra pair of pants.
Pay attention to what you drink. Caffeine is a diuretic, causing more frequent urination. It can irritate the bladder. Keep a food diary and enter your incontinent episodes. This will show you what foods trigger those episodes. Avoid your triggers on the days you plan to be out and about. Other common food triggers that can worsen incontinence are:
Empty your bladder half an hour before going out. Then empty your bladder again just before leaving the house. This allows you to expel additional urine.
Do Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Both men and women benefit from pelvic floor strengthening. Try to stay in a routine of activity during the holidays. Things like taking a walk can get pushed aside during the holidays. Walking is a great way to keep healthy.
Consider gender-specific tools. Women can use a pessary. A pessary is placed in the vaginal canal. It helps support pelvic structures or organs such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum. Men can use a penile clamp. The Bard Cunningham clamp is lined with soft rubber. When closed, it creates pressure on the urethra, preventing urine flow. A condom catheter (also known as a Texas catheter) is an external catheter that is placed over the penis. A pouch is attached to collect the urine. The pouch is anchored to the thigh by adjustable elastic straps.
Start a food diary now that includes activity and number of incontinent episodes. This will help you see a pattern of certain foods or beverages that increase incontinence. For some, incontinent episodes occur more often with exercise or activity, coughing or sneezing. Once you find a pattern, you can avoid certain foods or drinks that cause more episodes while socializing with friends and family.
Find ways to manage stress. Preparing for the season with gift giving, traveling, and cooking, being incontinent adds that much more stress. Take time away from the crowd if necessary and allow yourself to relax.
If you are a caregiver to someone who is incontinent, keeping to a toileting schedule can be difficult. Again, this is added stress to an already stressful time of the year. Find time to breathe and de-stress.
Keep in mind that the holidays are busy, and you may be invited to many events. Know when to say no! Participate in the events that make you happy. If they overwhelm you, it’s time to cut back. Who needs that extra stress!
When visiting with friends, find the bathroom first off. This way you will not be searching for it when the need arises.
Remember, the holiday season is a time to be thankful and joyful and to spend time with family and friends. Enjoy what you can within your limits. Your health and well-being are important so remember moderation is key!
Author Profile: Christine Kijek, Registered Colorectal Nurse
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