Caring for a relative or friend who has a bladder or bowel problem may not be easy. It is likely to have a big emotional and physical impact for the person you care for and can also have an emotional impact on you.
If you are caring for a relative or friend, you may be referred to as a ‘supportive carer’ or an ‘informal carer’. Your role is of great importance; not only do you help your relative/friend manage their problems physically, e.g. taking them to the toilet, helping them wash, you also provide support emotionally. It is likely that you are their shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. Caring for someone full time can place a huge burden on both parties.
Many adults who have a bladder or bowel problem are very embarrassed about their condition and often feel isolated and alone. You as a carer can help them understand that there is help and support available and improve their daily life by making them feel better about their condition.
It is important that you respect the wishes of the person suffering from bladder or bowel problems. We’re individual and deal with problems in different ways.
Let them know how common their problems are. This will help to get rid of their feelings of isolation and embarrassment and will help them to understand that there are many others with similar problems.
Be sensitive to their feelings. For most people who have always lived independently, having to accept help from others for basic help and care can be very difficult. A carer’s most important job is to help maintain the person’s dignity as much as possible.
Be aware of how you refer to their continence products, try not to refer to products as nappies and other similar words but rather, refer to products as pads, underwear, special products/aids etc.
Try to let the person you are caring for be in control as much as possible. Allow the person to make as many decisions relating to their problems on their own.
Avoid discussing their condition and details of their care with others.
Try and understand their condition. Find out as much as you can about their condition and associated problems. This will help you to achieve a better understanding of their needs. It might be useful to have a discussion with your partner or friend’s doctor or continence advisor. Ask for the person’s permission first.
There are specialist products that can help you to look after your partner or friend. Products such as commodes, raised toilet seats, handrails etc. could help you physically look after them and manage their continence issues. Contact a continence advisor who may be able to recommend products and point you in the right direction and refer you to an occupational therapist. They may arrange to provide equipment and fit handrails. Your GP or district nurse can also refer you.
Managing continence problems in the home
Make it easy for the person you care for to reach a toilet quickly. This should help to prevent accidents. Putting a commode, bedpan or urinal close to their bed or chair may also be helpful if they have mobility problems.
Try to be prepared for any accidents or any situation where the person that you are caring for would feel uncomfortable or embarrassed.
Managing continence problems out of the home
Be prepared when you are away from home. When you are out and about, try and be aware of where the nearest toilet is. B&BC provide a Just Can’t Wait toilet card, which may help you to gain access to a toilet when out shopping and socialising. The card states that the cardholder has a medical condition, which requires urgent need of a toilet. Please visit our toilet card section for more information on obtaining a card. It is also ok for you to use disabled toilets. They have more space for you to change and often have disposal facilities. Some are operated under the National Key Scheme organised by RADAR. A special key can be bought from RADAR, please visit the Disability Rights UK website for more information.
It would be helpful to take a bag with you when you go out containing the following products that you may need; continence products, hand wipes, spare underwear in case of an accident etc.
If you are caring for someone with a bladder or bowel problem you may be entitled to benefits. Caring can have an impact on your finances so it’s important carers get access to benefits advice and information on work and pensions too.
You may also be eligible for help from Social Services who could provide some help so that you can take a break. Your needs, as well as the person you are caring for, should be assessed. Contact your local authority to find out more.
Further advice and information
For further information about carer’s rights contact Carers UK, an organisation that provides a voice for carers throughout the UK.
Join the Bladder & Bowel Community Forum and chat with fellow carers, sharing your experiences with someone who understands can be a valuable lifeline.
Our forum is available 24 hours a day simply create a login and enter the site. Feel free to start your own topic or follow another topic of interest.