They may be family -- but having an incontinence accident while staying in another person's home can be awkward and embarrassing. How do you explain the wet sheets? How can you dispose of used incontinence pads? Is incontinence keeping you from visiting friends and family?
"One of my patients was afraid she would wet the bed," says May Wakamatsu, MD, chief of Vincent Obstetrics and Gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "She stopped sleeping at her daughter's house because of it -- even though it meant not spending as much time with her grandchildren. It was very embarrassing for her."
A lecture hall, the theater, a ballgame: if the setting is crowded, incontinence is a hassle. Many people avoid those events. Others get crafty in devising their exit plans.
"People can be very strategic," says Roger Dmochowski, MD, a urologist and director of the Vanderbilt Continence Center in Nashville, Tenn. "It's amazing how good some people are at estimating their bladder problem. They have a fairly good idea of the time frame they're working with. They try to make it through the challenging...
Here's a good plan to help you regain your freedom.
Your Strategy for Handling Incontinence
Pack for emergencies. Anextra bag can hold incontinence products: a bed pad, incontinence pads, odor neutralizer spray, disposable plastic bags, and extra pants. Stash wet things into plastic bags, slip them into your overnight bag -- and dispose when convenient. A spray of odor neutralizer in the room will help hide your secret.
Always pack black. Black pants are your best friend. Make sure you pack extras for those unexpected situations.
Upgrade your purse. Everyone carries day packs or tote bags. If you'll be out on a shopping spree -- or at a park with the grandkids -- yours can carry the necessities. Will you need an extra incontinence pad or change of pants? Will you need disposable bags to hold them? You'll be glad you have them with you.
Try a tampon. A tampon can help prevent leaks caused by stress incontinence, and works by putting pressure on the urethra, explains Vani Dandolu, MD, MPH, a urogynecologist with Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Whether you're having a period or not, a tampon can help with leaks.
Tighten up. Prepare for the unexpected. When a laugh (or cough) hits, tighten pelvic muscles to prevent leaks. Practice Kegel exercises often to keep those muscles tight. Your daily routine may be disrupted, but you can still do your Kegels. To do Kegels, contract the muscles that you would use to stop the flow of urine. Hold the contraction for three seconds and then relax. Do this eight to 10 times, at least three times a week.