The Stigma of Incontinence Can Keep Older Adults Secluded Adding to Potential for Decline
Dear Carol: I’m worried about my husband. We’re both in our 70s and in relatively good health but he’s had surgery for prostate cancer that’s left him incontinent. He’s keenly aware of the stigma that’s attached to incontinence, particularly with men friends. This keeps him from going out because he’s so sure people will “guess his secret.” I keep telling him that he’s not even close to being alone and that it’s likely that even among his friends there are other men who are incontinent. Can you give us some tips that might give him more confidence when he sees people? At this point he lives his life on the computer. I see this as the beginning of the end of a good quality of life for him and for us – not because of the incontinence but because of his embarrassment and refusal to see people. Thank you for anything you can do. – WL
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Dear WL: Your husband’s situation is not unusual. The stigma that stubbornly persists around adult incontinence is not just unfortunate – it’s damaging to quality of life for both of you. Socialization is vital to aging well which means that somehow, he must come to terms with his incontinence as an inconvenience rather than the beginning of the end as you put it.
The first step, in my opinion, is that he join a support group. His doctor’s office should be able to direct him to a group close by or at least provide resources for finding one. An alternative, especially since he enjoys being on the computer, would be an online group. There are many available including some Facebook groups including Egosan's own Incontinence Support Group.
A support group may help him come to terms with the fact that adult incontinence isn’t uncommon and shouldn’t cause any more shame than wearing glasses. Just understanding the scope of incontinence, especially among adults who’ve had bladder or prostate cancer, is important because that can help normalize this health issue.
Secondly, he needs to look at the products that he uses.
Here we’ll talk about Egosan because your husband fears that people will "guess his secret." One thing that even younger people who need incontinence protection love about Egosan products is the soft, quiet, cloth-like backing. No noisy, crackling plastic.
Andrew wrote us to say, “…thought i'd try these for bowel and bladder control loss and 24/7 use. They are light and had a great fit on a man. And I could put them on silently at work.”
Egosan products are high-tech, not high bulk. I’m suggesting that your husband read Matt’s story, “Incontinent at Age 22, Matt Tells His Story to Help Others” because it will help him understand that his situation is not unusual and also, well, it’s not just older people who face the challenges of incontinence. It can happen to younger people, too.
We do hope that after attending some support sessions and trying out the best protection he can find, your husband will be more comfortable seeing friends. We’re also hopeful that he might eventually become confident enough to let his friends know about how he deals with incontinence because doing so could help them or people they know. Let us know how things go, okay?
Need incontinence support for yourself or someone else? Try Egosan’s Incontinence Support Group on Facebook
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