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'Most of us have had to start wearing continence pads'


Rhoda Watson on a necessary nuisance

The people in seniors’ groups are never short of subjects to yarn about.

At one session we focused on the subject of continence issues. We recalled how when going to town we all used to make mental notes of the whereabouts of every single toilet. More important was the distance between them. At least one woman had experienced an attack of severe consternation when she found no entrance possible to her chosen toilet. Heavy duty repairs were in operation.

Women aged between 70 and 85 make up the membership of our seniors’ group. The subject of conversation led to an item we found that most of us have had to start wearing: a pad to keep our panties dry from little leaks and dribbles - and not just in daytime, night-time needs protection too.

Talk drifted back to how many of us always had trouble getting to a toilet in time. I think I have been incontinent all my life. Unfortunately, teachers were strict to the point of mercilessness at school, and they had canes to enforce discipline. It was their way or no way. One day I put up my hand to ask permission but was told to put my hand down and be quiet. Of course, I wet myself and wearing wet knickers caused chafing.

In later life when the time arrived to go out on dates I used to pray that I would not need the toilet. This spoiled the easiness between my date and myself. One of the women made us laugh when she told us about the boy who pulled her down on his lap. She wet her own, and his, trousers; an odd way to end a romance. 

One afternoon my fiance and I went on a long walk. By this time I was less tense and could say out loud what I needed. I shall never forget my fiance’s expression when he asked a passer-by for the location of the nearest railway station and was told it seven miles away.

Rushing in through the front door at home when I was younger, my Dad would always shout, “Here she comes, clear the decks.” He told me I needed a new washer. Perhaps not a washer but I needed something.

Discussion switched to why so little seems to be done to correct this problem. I had a bladder repair years ago, as had a few members of the group. Each one of us agreed that the repair does not last. Eventually we go back to dancing up and down, trying to hold on until we reach the relief of the toilet. It would be good to know how to do Irish dancing when the queue is long. It’s fast moving.

There is the matter of how to dispose of incontinence pads. There are no open fires nowadays where they could be burned. They certainly can’t be flushed down the toilet in case of blockage. Mostly, we just seem to tuck them into plastic bags and dump in the waste bin. This is not something we agree with as we are using plastic and adding to landfill.

Furthermore, the price is an addition to our weekly expenses and no-one yet has asked for a rise in pension to cover this cost. The extra 25 pence age allowance awarded to 80 year olds does not cover the cost of a packet of the necessary pads.


Readers' comments (6)

  • Go and see a Continence Specialsit Nurse -most incontinence can be cured very simply without the need for durgery and with tips and techniques that a doctor does not have the knowledge of.

    Incontinence is not inevitable in old age but unfortunately the adverts and sterotypes seem to give the impression that it is. I have cured a 96 year old lady's bladder problems with very simple measures.

    Get yourself and the other members of your group to your local continence nurse for a complete and thorough assessment.

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  • In this day and age it is not acceptable to "expect" to be incontinent, just because previous generations had little that was able to be offered to them in the way of treatment. Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals only see pads as a solution, and in fact, these should be a last resort [as with catheters also!] Ask for a continence assessment, and discuss the treatment options available.

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  • nursing is to blame. on a busy ward, especially on shifts when working alone, one often had to hang on desperately until the very last minute which can't do the muscles and nerve supply of the bladder much good at all. These need educating from early childhood and if the discipline is not maintained it could lead to difficulties in later life.

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  • I wonder why we never consider minor lower back abnormality or injury in everyone who has incontinence. I have come across many children in my career, that I have had arguments with GPs, Paeds consultants (and my managers for daring to question the docs) over, only to be proven correct in my assumption that abnormality of their lower lumbar/sacral area was the major cause of their daytime wetting or constipation. Some special exercises and minor interventions and, occasionally in the cases of minor injury like falling down hard on and bruising their bottoms, just time are enough to cure it.

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  • Thank you Rhoda, I enjoyed your article immensely.

    It reinforces the need for Pilates in Nursing Education and beyond. I trained as a dancer and a Pilates teacher and learnt more about manual handling, my back and pelvic floor from these professions than I ever did from Nursing!!!

    My answer is to get your group to a good Pilates Class where pelvic floor exercises are taught well!

    Kind regards

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  • i echo Anonymous go see a continence nurse or physio however the proviso is have you got a local service and how long will you need to wait to see an advisor. Better still go see a nurse who will dish out pads (before its to late) after all continence careis giving out pads isnt it ?

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