How to tackle a tricky subject

Incontinence can be a difficult subject for all of us, not just your patients. Here are some tips on how to handle it.

Incontinence is not only uncomfortable to discuss for patients, it can also be so for healthcare professionals. The associations of shame and guilt mean many patients can deny the condition even when it is apparent. You might feel it is too difficult a subject to tackle head-on.

But you can help patients a great deal by removing the stigma of embarrassment, making them feel less awkward and more ready to accept treatment of their condition. Here are some pointers.

Make it a routine issue
Treat incontinence as just another part of your discussion about the patient’s health. There’s no reason to treat it in a special way – because bladder control problems are common and treatment is often available.

Keep talking about it
Bring up the subject regularly to all patients. Incontinence can affect people of all ages, not just the frail elderly. Prostate conditions, pregnancy and the menopause can all bring bladder weakness issues.

Offer hope
The condition is often treatable but too many patients believe it is a natural sign of ageing or simply can’t be cured. By telling them that the majority of incontinence cases can be significantly improved, it is far easier for these patients to face their condition and start discussing treatment.

Don’t delay
It is important to address the subject and start any treatment as early as possible. Of course this helps patients avoid continued emotional and physical strain from their condition, but it also can prevent some even more severe social consequences. Incontinence is an all too frequent reason for admission into a nursing home – a drastic step for patients, their families and society as a whole. By talking early, and offering hope for the future through effective management, you can help patients stay in their own homes longer.

See the warning signs
Tell patients such as men with prostate problems, young mothers and menopausal women that incontinence might occur. Similarly patients with mobility difficulties can then experience incontinence problems which can often be helped by making toilet access easier. In all cases, by preparing at risk patients, you help them quickly come to terms with any eventual problem and make it easier to ask for treatment.