It’s About Dignity: Incontinence, Public Bathrooms and Changing Tables

December 01, 2021

It’s About Dignity: Incontinence, Public Bathrooms and Changing Tables

Few of us have spent a lifetime going out in public without at least some need for a public restroom. Most of these restrooms are the standard type with stalls. One for women and one for men. Just fine for most people, right? If you lived with incontinence or cared for someone who did, you'd probably say, "No."

Caregiving and bathrooms

During the time that I was regularly taking my dad to medical appointments, I found that even clinics didn’t always have a restroom where I could take him. Private restrooms are more available now in places like clinics and malls, but they are still not plentiful enough. Those that do have private restrooms are often proud of their changing tables, as they should be. However, these are generally toddler sized. Yet there are legions of adults and caregivers of adults who also need a changing table - an adult-sized changing table. Therefore, even in disability-aware establishments, there is more to be done.

In our case, eventually, my dad gave up and urinated in his brief, but he felt the stigma of doing so as an adult when he actually had the control to avoid this.

Lying on a bathroom floor to change? Ugh!!

People with bowel incontinence must lay on what are often filthy bathroom floors to change because one can’t clean up in those cases without a flat surface.

Now imagine yourself in a place with no private restroom but with stalls. People can look under doors and through the cracks between them. It takes someone with incontinence longer to change than it does others to use the toilet and they need a handicapped stall for extra room. Whether people look due to concern, or because of nosiness, doesn’t matter when you are the one in this situation. Yet, this is a routine experience for some living with incontinence. Remember, too, that not everyone who needs a handicapped stall looks "disabled." Many don't.

What can be done?

Kudos to places that have evolved enough to offer a private restroom and maybe even a changing table for a child. Next step? An adult changing table. Installing one is not hard or even horribly expensive and they serve not only adults but teenagers and others with or without caregivers assisting them.

So, let’s hope we will soon see private restrooms with changing tables for all ages not as something unique but as a routine service to customers and patients.

Putting a human face on the issue

The stories below can give you a glimpse of what it’s like to be a young person who lives with incontinence:

Life with Dignity: Sexual Abuse Survivor Talks About Living with Incontinence

Gregory Struggles to Accept Double Incontinence as His Muscular Dystrophy Progresses

Incontinent at Age 22, Matt Tells His Story to Help Others

Some praise for Egosan:

Incontinence products have come a long way from what they were when I was a kid. I like how the Egosan briefs are so quiet. Changing those in a public restroom makes things easier. Other people don’t hear the sound of the tapes and the rustle that plastic briefs make. ...Bryan 

Most people living with incontinence do their best to keep their situation private. They clean up after themselves and look to find a suitable place to dispose of their underwear. Please encourage businesses that you frequent to take this one extra step toward helping their fellow humans live with dignity.

By Carol Bradley Bursack


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