Toilet problems and continence

6. Tips for carers: dealing with an accident

Hygiene and going to the toilet are very personal and private issues, and having difficulties or being incontinent can make someone feel like they are losing control. This can affect their dignity as well as their self-esteem. Many people find it very hard to accept that they need help from someone else in such an intimate area of their life. It can be particularly difficult if the help is from someone very close to them.

Every individual will react differently to the experience of incontinence. Some people find it very upsetting, while others find it easier to accept. Approaching the problem with understanding, a matter-of-fact attitude and humour, if it feels appropriate, can help to improve the situation for everyone concerned.

If someone has an accident, it is important for carers and friends to:

  • remember that it’s not the person’s fault
  • try to overcome any embarrassment or upset they may feel
  • avoid appearing angry or upset.

This may not always be easy. If you find feelings about incontinence difficult to handle, it is a good idea to talk things through with a health professional. This could be the GP, a community nurse or a continence adviser (a nurse with specialist training in management of incontinence). It is important to try not to let dealing with incontinence get in the way of your relationship with the person you are caring for.