Staying Social with Incontinence
By Lisa A. Goldstein
Being incontinent is one thing. Letting the condition control your life is another. Vicky, of Denton, Texas, experienced slight bladder leakage during everyday activities. "I first noticed that if I tried to run, I would leak," she says. "Like most women, I thought it was normal since I had delivered three children."
Vicky refused to let bladder leakage keep her from enjoying life and sought medical attention for her incontinence. Initially, Vicky worried about having an accident in a public place and was unsure if she could maintain her active lifestyle with incontinence. "Every spring, [my husband and I] spend the weekend at the annual Jazz and Arts Festival in our town," she says. "But I did not know how we could go."
Today Vicky is going through a treatment program that involves biofeedback, the use of monitoring devices to help identify and control the muscles located around the bladder opening. In a clinic or similar setting, small sensors are placed temporarily in contact with your body. As you practice contracting muscles around the bladder opening, the sensors give you a signal, usually an audible tone or movement on a visual display or graph, indicating when you have correctly contracted the right muscles.
No Need to Be Anti-social
The desire to avoid accidents can become an all-consuming focus, keeping people away from their regular social activities. Some people become preoccupied with being near a bathroom, or making sure they know where all the bathrooms are located. Still other people wear dark clothes all the time, and if they go out, they won’t drink at all.
But instead of missing the annual Jazz and Arts festival, Vicky simply placed a portable toilet in her conversion van and wore Depend® absorbent product to the festival. "Depend got put to the test several times," she says. "I only had a moment's notice that I had to go. Depend [absorbent product] kept my clothes dry and saved us from embarrassment."
A Healthy Approach
The first step is to seek professional assistance and begin a treatment program. Treatment options vary and should be discussed with your physician. "Urinary incontinence is due to [some type of] disturbance in the normal storage function and occasionally in the normal emptying function of the lower urinary tract," says Linda Brubaker, M.D., professor and fellowship director at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. "Medications, a full range of absorbent products, urethral devices, vaginal devices and electrical stimulators [are available]," says Dr. Brubaker.
Once medical treatment and lifestyle modifications are underway, wearing absorbent products and emptying your bladder frequently can help you be more confident and relaxed while you’re participating in social activities, just like Vicky. Here are just a few ideas to keep you active:
- Take part in a community or church program – Many towns have community centers, church events or park districts offering classes or exercise facilities. Joining one will keep you social and fit, too.
- Take an educational class – Now is the time to explore that topic you were always interested in but never had time to explore.
- Give something back – Volunteer your time at the local hospital or soup kitchen. You will feel great about yourself and help others at the same time.
- Walk a dog – It’s amazing how animals draw people to you. Plus, the exercise is a great way to stay healthy. Don’t have a dog? Visit the local animal shelter and volunteer to walk one of their dogs.
Health clubs, such as the YMCA, are becoming increasingly popular as people get older. More than 1.5 million people ages 55 and older have become members of the YMCA. "Staying active through YMCA fitness programs structured to improve physical, spiritual and mental health encourages you to set personal goals and work toward them," says Don Kyzer, associate director for older adult programs at the YMCA in Chicago, Ill.
Remaining active and involved can have a positive impact on your life. "Achieving personal fitness goals, enjoying an increasingly positive self-image and self-esteem and having the ability to remain independent contributes to a more positive attitude toward life," Kyzer says.
Dealing with such a personal issue as incontinence has its challenges, as does maintaining a normal lifestyle. Stay active and involved with family and friends to help you feel good about yourself. Seek medical care and utilize absorbent products for added security. There is a wide variety of absorbent products available for both short-term and long-term use. To help select a product that’s right for you, visit the women’s products section at Depend.com. Taking these steps will help you maintain connections to the community and keep you feeling lively, happy and healthy.