The A-Z of functional incontinence
As you may already know, there are many different types of urinary and faecal incontinence. This can make it confusing at times, which is why we are developing a series of A-Z guides to help you understand some of the lesser known conditions. Today we’ll be talking about functional incontinence – but look out for the next guide on passive incontinence coming in April!
What is functional incontinence?
Firstly, let’s deal with the jargon. You might hear the term ‘disability associated incontinence’, which is perhaps a more straightforward way of describing what functional incontinence is. Basically, someone is thought to have this condition if their bladder or bowel works (functions) normally, but they are unable to reach the toilet because of a physical or mental impairment. If you or someone you care for has functional incontinence, then you might recognise some of the following symptoms:
- An inability to locate, access or recognise the toilet.
- An inability to remove clothing in time.
- Forgetting to go to the toilet or not realising that the toilet is needed.
What are the most common causes of functional incontinence?
As we said above, people with functional incontinence usually have a physical or mental impairment that affects their ability to go to the toilet. This could be an advanced neurological condition such as Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia or conditions like Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis (MS), diabetes, or a physical disability such as arthritis or cerebral palsy as well as the many diseases which make people ‘wheelchair and/or bed bound’. However, functional incontinence can also have environmental causes. For example, it could be that someone lives in a home where the toilet is located on a different floor from the bedroom, which makes it more difficult to access it if they have mobility issues like trouble with walking or climbing stairs.
What treatments are available for functional incontinence?
Functional incontinence is a very personal condition, which means that any treatment will depend on the individual’s needs. For this reason, it is particularly important to seek guidance from a healthcare professional. They can assess the symptoms and decide on a plan to help you or your loved one improve their overall quality of life. If you are unsure how to start the conversation, take a look at our platform, where you can find advice on planning for the appointment. You can also find a section dedicated to different types of treatments so that you can read up in advance.
What are the best functional incontinence tips for carers?
If can be stressful caring for someone with functional incontinence. One thing that can help is figuring out what barriers are preventing the person you care for from achieving continence. If their impairment is physical, then you could improve the environment with mobility aids, good lighting and clutter-free bathrooms. If the impairment is mental, then signs and pictures outside the bathroom could help them to recognise where the toilet is, and remind them that they need to go. There are some general tips for carers on our website which you may also find useful. We’re here to support you!
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