Jun 08, 2023

Men still remain tight-lipped about incontinence

Unfortunately, incontinence sees many older men become socially isolated as they feel embarrassed and ashamed of losing urine or faeces in public. [Source: Shutterstock]

An estimated 30% of men who visit the doctor are affected by incontinence yet more than two-thirds do not discuss the issue despite more than one million men in Australia will experience incontinence during their lifetime. 

Bladder and bowel problems and incontinence are very rarely discussed so it is easy to feel that you are the only person dealing with it.

The severity of urinary incontinence in older men ranges from an annoying dribble after urinating or a constant feeling that your bladder is full. Common causes are diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, overactive bladder syndrome, smoking and obesity. Varying levels of incontinence are also common after prostate surgery. 

Prostate cancer survivor and ConfidenceClub incontinence product customer, Michael*, underwent a radical prostatectomy that seriously damaged his pelvic floor. Despite working hard with pelvic therapists, his pelvic floor did not recover enough to return to full continence.

As a fairly active person, Michael relies on pads and guards to do daily activities.

“When I occasionally feel a bit down about my circumstances, I remind myself I no longer have cancer, and that this surgery which took my continence saved my life!” said Michael. 

But the availability of these safeguards in shops and chemists varies greatly, meaning Michael had to ask staff about their stock – something he found frustrating and embarrassing. 

Michael is not alone in these feelings. Sisters *Sarah and *Tanya care for their 88-year-old dad, Reg*, who has experienced heavy incontinence issues for 8-10 years and said he also felt uncomfortable discussing his condition.

Aside from having incontinence, Reg also has mobility issues, making it harder for him to leave the house for long periods of time. Although he has a very caring and devoted family, he sometimes feels isolated and lonely.

Sarah said approaching the subject with her dad was one of the toughest hurdles, as he found the situation embarrassing.

While it is normal to feel this way, statistics show that you probably know someone else with incontinence who is also feeling embarrassed. 

But those who confide in friends or family normally find that their problem is accepted in a sympathetic and matter-of-fact way.

If incontinence concerns you or someone you care about, there are several management options to consider with the help of a doctor or geriatrician.

Beneficial management options can involve diet, movement, a medical operation and Kegel exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor and yes – Kegels are important for both men too!

Men’s health physiotherapist, Doctor Jo Milios, told HelloCare that strengthening pelvic floor muscles can reduce symptoms for men experiencing incontinence, although many men don’t even know they have a pelvic floor.

“Good bowel, bladder and sexual function are largely dependent on the strength and tone of the PFMs and their ability to contract, relax, hold and empty under conscious control,” explained Dr Milios.

“All these issues can be assisted with simple understanding and activation of the PFMs, no matter your age or stage in life.”

*names have been changed to protect identity

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