Apr 08, 2018

The real impact of incontinence on the emotional state of the elderly

Possibly one of the most difficult or unpleasant concerns around ageing can be incontinence.

This is likely due to it being a difficult topic to raise with a loved one and even harder for them to raise with you.

Social and emotional impacts of incontinence

When we understand the social and emotional impacts that incontinence can have both for the person living with it and also their carers it can be a little easier to broach all around.

It is likely that the person living with incontinence is aware of the situation but is possibly trying to deny that there is an issue. This can be for many reasons including:

  • embarrassment,
  • loss of independence,
  • social isolation,
  • feelings of rejection,
  • financial impacts and
  • even body image concerns.

What can you do as a carer to help?

As a carer similarly you may experience a wide range of emotions when caring for a person with continence issues.  These maybe similar to the person living with incontinence, leaving you feeling overwhelmed by significant changes in your life and your relationships.

Other feelings of stress may arise due to the cost of continence aids, or additional time needing to be spent in preparing for outings or just general activities of daily living.

Some of these issues can be alleviated through planning in advance for social outings. Such as knowing where the bathrooms are or even asking others for help when you the carer feel that you aren’t coping yourself.

What is the impact of incontinence on the carer?

For you the carer it can be equally as isolating and sometimes even frustrating when managing continence issues.

These are not easy topics to discuss with friends and family or even the person with incontinence themselves.

Not only do you have to assist with the physical needs arising from incontinence such as toileting, but then there is also the extra time spent cleaning clothes and bedding. Not to mention trying to manage your loved ones emotional needs around their incontinence.

As a carer it is important that you address your changing feelings and emotions to the changed environment as well.

Understanding that there are both social and emotional impacts associated with what is considered a very physical issue can help you realise that these feelings are normal. It can be hard accepting that someone normally so independent is now so reliant on you can be a challenge realisation.

The feelings of helplessness and embarrassment of living with incontinence can make it a delicate situation for all involved.

The struggles to the adjustment to the changes happening to their body can sometimes  important to understand that this resistance is not about you their carer, family or friend but the situation and their feelings of loss around how their life has changed in ways they had previously never imaged.

Remember that there is support out there for you and for more information visit:

Continence Australia

Carers Australia

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  1. I am in my late 60’s .. but have had to deal with Incontinence for about and more than 10 years now … had a bladder stretch that slowed it down a bit for awhile … But now have practically No Control of the problem at all ..wear incontinence pads and pants 24 hours a day … No Social Life … even going shopping can be tricky as i have No control … my Mother in her later part of her life was spent wearing a incontinence bag which also would leak and she was in pain with the the connection to her private parts … so i am not keen to end up in the same situation it also had a tendency to leak… Anyway… If i try to cut down on how much i drink during the day i end up being dehydrated and it can lead to getting a little confused or disorientated even more so in the summer time … Not happy with my life would be an Understatement…

    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your personal experience with us. I’m very sorry to hear the struggles you are facing as you adapt and manage the changes to your body and find ways to cope. Part of the reason we wrote about this was because we understand there are many people living in the community with similar challenges that you describe. I’d be happy to chat offline and see if there are any other avenues of support you may not have tried. If you would like to send us an email to [email protected]

      Lauren & HelloCare team

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