One of the first big milestones in all our lives is when our parents can proudly exclaim that we can go to the bathroom all by ourselves. No more diapers, no more accidents at inopportune times—no more worry. So it’s only natural that we feel embarrassed and frustrated when we’re affected by incontinence as adults. It robs us of our confidence, our comfort and can even take away our independence—incontinence is one of the most common reasons people move into long-term care facilities.1 But we don’t have to be embarrassed or frustrated by it and we don’t always have to trade the fun and freedom of our golden years for anxiety or dependence on someone taking care of us. Living well with incontinence is possible.
A familiar condition
Incontinence is a legitimate health issue the same as diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. It’s common, and it becomes more so as we age. More than half of Americans 65 and older have experienced urinary leakage or accidental bowel leakage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2 Between 1/4 and 1/3 of men and women in the U.S. are living with urinary incontinence.3
Yet, despite the millions of people living with bladder leakage and incontinence, it has a way of isolating us. It keeps us up at night with trips to the bathroom or changing soiled sheets. It makes work even harder if our jobs limit us to a certain number of breaks or if we’re stuck in long meetings. It keeps us from going out with friends and family because we are too nervous to be too far from a bathroom for too long. We’re afraid to sneeze or cough or even laugh too hard. Ultimately, incontinence erodes our confidence and strips us of who we are.
Surgery, certain types of physical therapy and lifestyle changes may provide relief. But what are we to do before and during those efforts and what if they don’t offer acceptable solutions?
Living a confident life with incontinence begins with managing your incontinence.
Knowing the type of incontinence you have
There are different types of incontinence4 and they bring different levels of severity.
- Stress incontinence– Pressure on the bladder caused by body weight, pregnancy, sneezing, lifting heavy objects, exercise and some medical conditions.
- Overflow incontinence– Most common in men with prostate issues, makes it difficult to empty the bladder.
- Urge incontinence or overactive bladder– A strong urge to urinate, so much so that it can be difficult to make it to the bathroom in time. This type often occurs after an injury to nerves or muscles associated with bladder control, but can also be caused by some medical conditions.
- Functional incontinence– Most common in the elderly suffering from dementia or arthritis.
- Mixed incontinence– Most common in women, this is a blend of an overactive bladder and stress incontinence.
- Total incontinence– A complete loss of control over the bladder resulting in constant urine leakage. This is the most severe case.
Understanding which type of incontinence you have and how severe it is, is the key to not letting it control your life. It’s always best to speak to your doctor so you know for sure the best approach to take.
Managing your incontinence, living a good life
Considering your type of incontinence and the unique lifestyle you live determines how you should manage your incontinence. But for all types and degrees, there are a few things you can do and items you should be aware of that can help you live the independent and active life you want.
- Stay hydrated. Keeping your body hydrated can help reduce odors. It also reduces the risk of bladder irritation, which can lead to leakage. Just be careful not to overdo it, especially right before bed. And, try to cut back on caffeine, citrus juice and alcohol. In the end, you need to drink, and not drink, what’s best for you.
- Protect yourself. Avoiding embarrassing messes and the need to be no more than a one-minute walk to a bathroom can be solved with discreet undergarments like FitRight Bladder Pads (for women) and FitRight Active Guards (for men), FitRight Protective Underwear and FitRight Liners. Don’t think of these things as diapers. They’re not. They’re your protection. Maybe you’ll need them, maybe you won’t. Think of them like an umbrella or safety goggles or a life preserver. Or better yet, think of them like insurance: you hope not to have to use it but you’re really happy you have it when something happens.
Your type and severity of incontinence, physical ability and sex will help determine the undergarment that’s best.
- Keep it clean and comfortable. A urinary or bowel leakage happening in public is not the only concern, of course. There’s the cleanliness and comfort concerns, too. The right protective undergarment can help keep things clean and comfy but it’s the cleanup and maintenance that makes a world of difference.
Relying on washcloths and toilet paper is not ideal. They can be messy, unavailable and unsanitary. Aloetouch Personal Cleansing Wet Wipes and ReadyFlush Jr. Biodegradable Flushable Personal Cleaning Wet Wipes are two solutions that make sure you always have a sanitary and easy cleanup. These disposable wipes are pH-balanced and pre-moistened so they’re gentle on your skin. They can be brought along when you’re on the go or stored at home wherever you need them most, like on the back of the toilet or on your nightstand.
Taking care of your skin is an important part of managing your incontinence. Remedy Phytoplex Nourishing Skin Cream and Remedy Z-Guard Paste are ideal products for practicing good skin care. They help restore your skin’s natural moisture balance and help protect you from irritating rashes and painful abrasions incontinence can cause.
All of our Medline continence care products are designed to help you maintain your confidence, comfort and independence. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed by your condition. So while you’re doing everything you can to keep your condition underwraps, we are, too. That’s why all of your orders are shipped to you in discreet packaging.
We know living with incontinence is not ideal but we also know there’s good living to be done in spite of it.
 I. Milsom et al., “Epidemiology of Urinary Incontinence (UI) and Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS), Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) and Anal Incontinence (AI),” in P. Abrams et al., Incontinence, 5th Edition, ICUD-EAU, Paris, 2013, pp. 15-107; P. Thomas et al., ‘Reasons of informal caregivers for institutionalizing dementia patients previously living at home: The Pixel study’, International Journal Geriatric Psychiatry, vol. 19, no. 2, 2004, pp. 127-135. Retrieved from http://reports.essity.com/2018-19/hygiene-and-health-report/en/changing-bodies-changing-needs/ensuring-health-through-transitional-stages-of-life/living-well-with-incontinence.html
 Gorina Y, Schappert S, Bercovitz A, et al. “Prevalence of incontinence among older Americans.” National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 3(36). 2014. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_03/sr03_036.pdf
 Urology Care Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/urinary-incontinence
 Continence Foundation Retrieved from http://www.continence-foundation.org.uk/types-of-incontinence.html