Whether it's due to pride, a desire to maintain their independence, or forgetfulness, if you have aging parents there are likely things they aren't telling you. And that can be both troubling and dangerous.
In this new blog series, Things Your Aging Parents Aren't Telling You, we look at issues and problems that could be happening in your aging parent's life that they are not telling you about -- and offer solutions to help manage these situations.
"I am incontinent."
When people discuss the things that scare them about aging, the idea of not having control over one's bladder is typically among the pack. We dread the idea of going into a store and buying adult diapers. We worry that if we have to wear them that everyone will be able to tell. We fear that the day will come when we are unaware that we have soiled ourselves. And when we think about it, we imagine that when we get to that point, our life may not be worth living.
Of course, that's not the case. But if your parent is struggling with bladder control they might be embarrassed to talk about it because of the perceptions about the problem. Here's a few ways to help them if you suspect incontinence is an issue.
1. Bring it up - If you notice it might be an issue, pick a time when you can sit down privately to discuss the matter. In some cases, rather than talk about the problem or start using products like adult diapers, your parent might just avoid going out to shop, eat and socialize because they fear having an "accident." Opening the door to discussing the problem can be a great way to let them know it is a normal problem for many of us when we age.
Recent research indicates that as many as 65 million American adults experience bladder leakage - that's about 1 in 4 adults, with woman experiencing the problem at significantly higher levels. It is not an easy conversation and it requires tact and thoughtfulness, so avoid making your parent feel badly about the matter or implying they can control it if they tried harder.
2. Offer solutions - Once you've discussed it with your parent, try to figure out how you can help them manage their incontinence. This might require you to do a little research on your own. What products are available that could help your parent? What is the cost of incontinence aids? Where will be the easiest place for your parent to buy them, in a store or online for discreet home delivery? Or would they prefer you purchase them for them? If they will be using a diaper-like product, are they able to take it on and off with ease and maintain proper hygiene, or will they need help? There can be a lot of variables. It is important not to make any assumptions.
3. Suggest a doctor visit - It can be very difficult to convince a parent to go to the doctor, especially over something that can be seen as embarrassing, such as incontinence. But it is wise to suggest it because incontinence can be a sign of a more serious health problem. It also can be treatable in some cases. Reminding your parent that it might be a fixable issue will hopefully make them willing to see their doctor. Even if the incontinence is not curable, the doctor will be able to write prescriptions for incontinence products. This can significantly lower the costs of things like disposable underwear and save your parent money.
Incontinence can affect people at all ages for many different reasons. And people live very normal, active lives despite the condition. If you suspect your parent is incontinent, it can be a tough topic to bring up. But it is important to do so so that your parent can enjoy a full and active life.
Patrick O'Brien is CEO and co-founder of Executor.org, a comprehensive online resource that helps executors manage their responsibilities and duties in this complex role. The tool includes a helpful step-by-step interactive guide for executors and invaluable tips on everything from planning a funeral and keeping beneficiaries happy to dealing with grief and managing estate assets.