One of the toughest realizations that someone is growing older is when they can’t go to the bathroom on their own anymore. I see it in our assisted living homes all the time. People feel like they are losing their freedom and independence. It is very understandable. I am definitely NOT looking forward to when I may have to do it. Having a conversation about incontinence products is not a fun experience.
That’s how you should think if and when you have to approach a family member about wearing incontinence products. Put yourself in their shoes. Remember what a psychological blow it is to them.
When you see your loved one starting to have trouble with incontinence, try to find out the reason. Sometimes it may be as simple as a urinary tract infection. If it is a UTI, we have several other posts (here and here) that offer some possible solutions. Or there may be other problems with the person’s bladder or prostate. The best solution would be to fix these problems and avoid the whole incontinence products thing altogether. As with most other medical issues, catching the problem early is the best way to treat it. Go see a doctor at the first sign of trouble and hopefully they can fix it.
Let’s assume that it’s not an easy fix. Unfortunately, many times when elderly people become incontinent, they stay incontinent.
The ‘Incontinence Products Conversation’ Tips
One of the first things you can do is to stay away from the word ‘diaper’.. People associate diapers with babies. And babies don’t have any independence. They are totally dependent on others to survive. That’s what older people think when you tell them they have to wear diapers. Saying ‘incontinence products’ may be an easier way to describe their new piece of ‘clothing’.
You can also refer to them as underwear..or briefs..or even their brand name like Depends. See if you can find a term that would be more ‘dignified’ for them. As much as you can, make them feel like they are putting on the same kind of clothing they’ve been putting on their whole lives.
Since they want to be independent, you can explain the benefits of wearing the incontinence products. They will allow people to lead normal lives. They can still use the bathroom if they want. The briefs are just an ‘insurance policy’ in case something goes wrong.
Just keep preaching you are doing everything you can to help them stay independent.
If the independence angle doesn’t work, try appealing to their vanity. Ask them how embarrassed they would be if they had an ‘accident’ when they were around a lot of other people. The briefs will help them continue to look their best and be the social butterflies they always were!