Interestingly, I received two emails this week from TWAP followers asking the same question:
Should I leave an aging parent at home if he or she suffers from serious incontinence?
This is a very real problem, particularly amongst the elderly, which few want to talk about it. Unfortunately, it’s also highly prevalent – a recent study from the National Center for Health Statistics reported some 37 million seniors who live independently suffer from some form of incontinence. Some are even living with it with no diagnosis, due to not wanting to visit a medical professional or being too embarrassed to talk about it. Urologists deal with cases like this everyday, and are used to these sort of issues being raised. If you feel you may have incontinence, visit a urologist like those at Advanced Urology who will talk through methods of treatment. Incontinence can make day outings feel difficult. Does that mean your parents should stay at home? Not necessarily, but it does mean you’ll need to do some pre-trip research.
Check out my video on tips for traveling with incontinence:
In case you have issues viewing the video, here’s a written account of the tips for traveling with incontinence:
Preparing to leave
- Talk with your parent’s doctor as there are medicines that may be able to help with incontinence while on the road.
- Download the Sit or Squat app on your phone which locates restrooms around the world (mandatory regardless of incontinence!).
- While you don’t want your parent to become dehydrated, reducing the liquid intake does help. Perhaps have your parent take their last sip of liquid about an hour and half before you walk out the door so it has time to roll through their system (although that’s not always a fail safe).
- Go at the last possible moment. Don’t make your parent get in the car and wait – get all the packing done and you’re read to back down the driveway – then have your parent use the restroom and get in the car.
If you’re driving
- Plan ahead – look up rest areas or towns where you can stop along the way. It’s critical to not leave this up to chance as rest stops can be hundreds (or thousands) of miles apart in certain parts of the country.
If you’re flying
- Go with your parent to the restroom right before boarding begins. Don’t make them go alone as they may get nervous and opt to skip it. (My mom will not leave the gate area unless I take her as she has this intense fear she’s going to miss the plane.)
- Call your airline and ask about the configuration of the plane, including the location of the restrooms. Larger aircraft typically have three bathroom locations – one up front for first class, one in the middle of the plane (typically close to the boarding door) and one in the rear of the aircraft. Book seats as close to the restroom as possible.
- If you’re in economy close to the front, talk with the flight attendant about the restroom in 1st class if the lines are too long. I prefer seats in the rear as you can sit right in front of the bathroom – great for quick escapes!
- Speaking of quick, give your parent the aisle seat so they can easily get up and down (and don’t have to disturb you or other passengers).
- I always recommend giving the flight attendants a heads-up when you board in case you need their assistance superseding a giant queue for the restroom on behalf of your parent.
Items to bring with you
- tissues, paper towels and sanitary wipes
- female urination device
- travel john disposable urinals
- incontinence pads (additional items can be found at this same website)
Finally, it’s good to be prepared, so always pack a change of clothes just in case your parent doesn’t make it to the restroom in time.
Anyone else have suggestions for Mary and Susan? Would love to hear them!