We're talking about all things poo and wee. Don't be shy - we all do it. But in all likelihood as a carer, we may have more tales than our average person.
What follows is a mix of practical tips and humour from those of us supporting someone with continence issues. We shouldn't be afraid to talk about poop. For many of us, it is very prevalent in our day to day lives.
And let's face it, clearing up after someone else's bowel movements is unlikely to be the job we mentioned to our careers adviser at school.
But. Here we are.
We're amazing people, who want to preserve the dignity of the person we care for. But also find our own way of coping when the sh*t hits the fan. (And no doubt, someone has an actual tale of sh*t hitting a fan!)
How we cope day to day depends on a few factors.
When the person we care for is aware of their incontinence
This makes a big difference to how 'awkward' the situation may be. If the person we're caring for is very aware of the situation, then it can be embarrassing for everyone involved.
Light humour seems to be the way many carers approach the situation. The old saying "if you didn't laugh you'd cry" comes to mind.
Our favourite 'make light' joke we've heard is,
"We appear to have ourselves a Shituation!"
Obviously, we also know the personality and relationship with the person we look after, best. Light humour may be the perfect remedy to lighten the mood - but of course, it may not.
Perhaps, a gentle reminder to the person we're supporting, that we understand how embarrassing it can be, may help. Carers in the Mobilise community have also shared that sometimes, shifting the focus (such as to the pad or wet bed) can reduce feelings of embarrassment for the person we're helping.
When the person we care for is unaware of their incontinence
This does typically remove the embarrassment from the moment, but it can also (often) mean, that 'Shituations' can escalate, as no-one has let you know there is something to clear up.
There can be some big clear ups involved, and carers talk openly about the challenges in maintaining hygiene - how to keep fingernails clean, how to clean poo off of a variety of surfaces and how many changes of clothes they should pack for a day out.
Top tips from the Mobilise community
Dealing with the clear-up and knowing how difficult this is for the people we care for can be one of the hardest parts of caring. We never imagined we would do this for our parents, partners or adult children.
Relationships change and there are very few people we can talk to about this. So we opened up a space to talk about this in one of our virtual cuppas for carers. Together we were able to share our honest experiences and share a giggle along the way - including tales of exploding stoma bags, our first experiences with catheters and avocado bathrooms!
We've filtered out some top tips - the things that no one tells us!
1. Contact your local continence service or ask your GP to refer you to the team
We can often self-refer and depending on our NHS trust, we may be able to get free incontinence supplies (although we might need a spare room to store it all in).
It might also be possible that different types of medication or conditions can have different effects on our bowels;
"Get the GP to check that bedtime drugs are not diuretics. Or, make sure there is not a condition such as diabetes causing heavy overnight urination."
2. Waterproof sheets
These might be available from the continence service (we have to ask). Making up the bed with double layers can make for a quick change in the middle of the night. Carers have also shared that puppy pads, or Kylie bedsheets have worked well for them.
For more tips on ‘waterproofing’ bedding and sofas, plus tips on cleaning and managing the whole experience with some humour, read our Carers’ guide to cleaning up bodily fluids.
And for those of us who don't have our hands on waterproof sheets just yet, towels can be a good substitute for the time being.
Carers have also suggested that it's handy to have baby wipes (or incontinence wipes) by the bed. Along with a plastic bin and bin liners, helping us reduce our clean-up time.
3. Test out the product beforehand
Some of the most popular products amongst carers include using pull-up pads, along with a slip pad for extra protection.
But for those of us using incontinence pads for the first time, we may not believe they will provide enough protection and be nervous about going out. A simple demonstration with a jug of water might help.
4. Bio Bidet toilet seats
Unlike regular bidet seats that just wash, Bio Bidets both wash and dry. This can be helpful if the person we care for needs assistance in cleaning themselves up but doesn't want us to do it. Carers have also shared that the brand Closomat works well for them.
5. Don't suffer in silence
Constipation, diarrhoea, and not being able to hold wee in may be caused by an undiagnosed health condition or may be treatable - think about food intolerances, anxiety, excitement, IBS, dietary changes etc.
"Constipation can cause overflow which might seem like diarrhoea"
6. Exercise and drinking plenty can help prevent constipation
Others add fig rolls, prunes, orange juice, probiotics, liquorice, black grapes, figs and flaxseed which seem to help some (but not all). But we also may not want this to be too close to bedtime otherwise it can interrupt some sleep!
7. Get a RADAR key
Motability have a great little guide that explains exactly what they are.
8. Look out for Changing Places toilets
These are safe, accessible toilets, complete with hoists. There's more info on these and other ways to make getting out and about easier, in our "Just popping to the loo!" section of our Carers' guide to getting out and about.
9. Use the handy Bristol Stool Chart
The Bristol Stool Chart is a helpful chart to help us identify what 'type of stool' has passed. Carers in the Mobilise community have shared that it helped them know what is 'normal' and what is 'not' normal.
10. Use floral disinfectant to help with 'the smell'
Carers have also shared different ways how we can combat 'the smell'! Here are a few that carers suggested work for them:
Floral disinfectant - We can find this in our local supermarkets such as Tesco.
Odour remover for pets - We can find this on Amazon
Sprinkle Nutradol carpet deodoriser powder or bicarbonate of soda over the smell, then hoovering it up.
Use Vicks Vapour or a face mask with a drop of our chosen essential oil scent as a temporary solution!
Some carers shared that working on their "acceptance" of the situation really helped to overcome the challenges they were facing.
"When I stopped feeling resentful and to be honest bitter, things improved. I 'let it go' and simply accepted things. I felt far less resentful and better in myself. I accepted an accident was likely to happen and decided how I'd like to respond - ahead of it actually happening. It sounds strange, but it really helped. I stopped wasting energy on 'hating things so much'."
Acceptance can be really powerful, but it needs to come from a place of conscious choice. Remember, we have no legal obligation to provide care (although of course, emotionally it's much harder). It's also important that we know what other support is out there to help us in our caring roles.
Incontinence care and carers' mental health
Don't forget the impact that these issues can have on mental health, confidence and overall health. They may not be easy topics to talk about but it's worth being brave to get the help we and those we are caring for need.
And finally carers - if you yourself are suffering in this area do speak to your doctor. It can have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall health and there might be simple solutions available. (Perhaps our trampolining days are not over!)
Incontinence products suggested by carers
Support for bladder and bowel
Bladder and Bowel UK also offers advice for adults, children and young people with bladder
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