Five strategies for dealing with incontinence in difficult social situations
People with incontinence often worry about going out for social occasions. Here are five tips on how to be prepared and feel confident. You might be concerned about what will happen if you’re out and can't get to a toilet, or whether your pad will adequately prevent leakage. The good news is that there's strategies you can use to ensure you can go out and enjoy yourself, without fear of embarrassment. These techniques include:
1. Choose the right continence pad for the occasion
There are pros and cons to washable and disposable continence pads. When going out socially, it’s best to opt for a pad that offers both maximal absorbance and protection against odours. According to the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, disposable pads are less likely to be a cause of odour problems. For this reason, you may prefer a disposable pad for outings. After choosing the right pad for your outing, make sure you change your pad just before leaving your house. Remember to wear fitted (rather than loose) underwear to ensure the pad is correctly placed and to keep the pad in place throughout. If you have experienced leakage when using an incontinence pad in the past, don't be disheartened. Instead, try a different absorbency or brand. There are many options available and you will find a pad that works best for you. More on dealing with leakage - click here
2. Be prepared
There are many steps you can take to prepare yourself for your social occasion. If the timing of your social occasion is within your control, such as a catch-up with friends, aim for a time of day when you’re least likely to have an incontinent episode. Also, choose a venue with easily accessible bathrooms. Another key part of preparation involves packing bags with items you may need. Pack two bags – one bag should come out with you; the other should be kept in the car. Each bag should have spare continence pads, wipes, a plastic bag (to contain soiled pants) and spare underpants.
3. Confide in a close friend or family member about your concerns
If you’re concerned you may face challenges with incontinence while you’re out, confide in a close friend or family member about your worries. While it can be embarrassing or difficult to discuss, the best approach is to be honest and open, says Sonya Meyer, National Clinical Specialist at MoliCare. She recommends starting the conversation by saying something like, "Look, we’re going out today. I just wanted to let you know this could happen. I'm doing my best to avoid it but if it does, will you just be there to help me get through it?” Once the conversation has been initiated, you can then further discuss your concerns. Meyer says it can be helpful to remember this is a common issue that many people face, and there's no need to feel ashamed. "We have to be able to take that a step away and go, 'You know what, this actually happens to people and there are lots of people this happens to and we have to manage it.'" Discussing your concerns with a friend means you can also gain reassurance as needed, especially when related to issues such as odour. While discussing incontinence with friends or family can help them assist you emotionally, if you require physical help in changing your pads, ensure you can access that help from someone for your outing.
4. Know where your local bathrooms are
Before going out socially, be aware of all the bathroom locations. The National Public Toilet Map can assist you in planning outings as it provides information on where public toilets are located. Meyer says you can log those details and then feel reassured that you'll never be too far from a bathroom if needed. It's important to not only know where the closest bathroom is when you’re out, but to use them at opportune times. According to the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, 'holding on' for too long can lead to an accident. For that reason, you should go to the bathroom just before leaving the house and again upon arriving at your destination. Visit the bathroom again as soon as you get an urge to go, and before any further car travel. If possible, seat yourself near a bathroom when you’re out, especially at a movie or show. Also, try to use the bathroom at less busy times to avoid waiting in long queues.
5. Don't worry too much
While people with incontinence are often concerned about whether they will embarrass themselves when out in social situations, remember that if you’re using the right pad, you can go out with confidence. "If you have the right product with the right absorbency and you’ve put it on correctly, you should be socially continent," says Meyer. In other words, you may have issues with incontinence but when you're wearing the right pad, no-one else would ever know