The mobilise guide to bladder and bowel incontinence
So we thought we'd talk all things poo and wee! Don't be shy - we all do it! But in all likelihood as a carer, you have more tales than your average person!
What follows is a mix of humour and practical advice. 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 you mentioned to your 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 shit hits the fan! And no doubt, someone has an actual tale of shit hitting a fan?!
How we cope day to day depends on a few factors.
When the person we care for is aware of the poop patrol clear up
This makes a big difference to how 'awkward' the situation may be. If the person you'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. With the old saying "if you didn't laugh you'd cry" coming 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 care for, best. Light humour may be the perfect remedy to lighten the mood - but of course, it may not! You'll know what feels right - and no doubt are naturally approaching it in that way already.
When the person we care for is unaware of the poop situation!
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!
Over to Suzanne for some advice from our community of carers......
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 a Virtual Cuppa for Carers, through the giggles, sharing stories and experiences honestly (including exploding stoma bags and avocado bathrooms) we've filtered out some advice and tips...the things that no one tells you!
Contact your local continence service. You can often self-refer and depending on your NHS trust you may be able to get free incontinence supplies. (although you might need a spare room to store it all in!)
Waterproof sheets might be available from the continence service (you have to ask!). Making up the bed with double layers can make for a quick change in the middle of the night. Some people also use puppy pads or toddler toilet training mats too.
When first using incontinence pads people may not believe they will provide enough protection and be nervous about going out. A simple demonstration with a jug of water might help.
Don't suffer in silence. Constipation, diarrea, 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 diarrea
Exercise and drinking plenty are helpful in preventing constipation. Others add fig rolls, prunes, orange juice, probiotics, licorice, black grapes, figs and flaxseeds which seem to help some (but not all).
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 its 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 you quality of life and overall health and there might be simple solutions available. (Perhaps our trampolining days are not over!)