Occupational therapist Jane Fothergill provides practical caring tips for managing incontinence at home. She discusses the wide range of aids and equipment available which will assist in managing incontinence.
Basic bladder and bowel health
Keeping the bladder and bowel as healthy as possible is critical for avoiding accidents. The best way to do this is to drink 1.5 to 2 litres of fluid a day, eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fibre-rich foods, exercise daily (including pelvic floor exercises) where practical, and establish a regular bowel-emptying regime.
Learning the bowel’s natural rhythm is essential for regular bowel movements and for minimising the risk of accidents. The best time to empty the bowel is when the gastro colic reflex is felt. This is a mass movement of contents through the bowel that takes place between five and 20 minutes after eating - usually breakfast. By going as soon as the urge is felt, a good bowel action is more likely to occur and the chances of becoming constipated, which can be the cause of diarrhoea-like faecal overflow, is significantly reduced.
Before choosing products, factors to be considered are the level of ability (e.g. to grasp and reach), body shape and size, and help from a carer. A continence nurse or physiotherapist can provide guidance about the most appropriate products. Staff on the National Continence Helpline can also provide contact details of your closest continence health professional.
The Australian Government’s Continence Aids Payment Scheme (CAPS) provides an annual subsidy of over $545.80 for someone with permanent or severe incontinence to help pay for continence aid products. Call the National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66 about eligibility and applying.
The National Public Toilet Map provides the details and locations of more than 16,000 public and private toilets around the country. Go to the National Public Toilet Map website for more information and to download the app.
The free booklet, Help for people who care for someone with bladder or bowel problems, is available from the Continence Foundation. Call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 for a copy.
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