Living Well with Parkinsons Disease

Dancing in the Rain: Lessons Learned on my Personal Journey with PD (more at Copyright 2013-20 Sheryl Jedlinski

Breaking the silence on incontinence

By Sheryl Jedlinski

I recently came within seconds of living out one of my worst nightmares… becoming incontinent in public and exposing my embarrassing secret to the world. For the first time, I realized just how much shame and my fear of being discovered were negatively impacting my life, and I promised myself it would end right then.

I went online to read up on bladder issues and found that my condition is quite common, and easily treatable, if not curable. One in two women over the age of 50 and two-thirds of people with Parkinson’s disease have bladder issues, with incontinence a common, though little talked about, symptom. By discussing the topic, we rob incontinence of the hold it has on us, leading us to seek treatment and regain a better quality of life. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes.

It was only after I asked a friend directly how she was coping with her incontinence that she told me about a device she purchased online that seemed to help her almost right away. I decided to look into it and follow her progress. Motivated by competition, I’ve challenged myself to beat incontinence before my 2-1/2 year old granddaughter is potty-trained.

Incontinence can be caused by many things includingurinary tract infection, side effects of medications, weakened pelvic floor muscles, overactive bladder, obesity, and Parkinson’s. How incontinence affects daily living differs from person to person, depending on the severity of the condition, personality, and coping strategies. Left untreated, bladder issues can disrupt quality and quantity of sleep, cause problems at work, and reduce enjoyment of sex.

Never knowing when or where I may have an “accident,” has me questioning whether leaving home is worth all the stress it creates… but only momentarily.I did not live withParkinson’s for 21 years and survive two bouts of advanced stage cancer to allowincontinence to keep me from enjoying life.

This epiphany came to me when I was overcome by the urge to use the restroom in the middle of a play I was seeing with my husband, Tony, and some friends. Do I shelter in place and hope my “dam” holds or leave now and attract unwanted attention?

With way too much time remaining until the final act, I could not risk wetting myself and my upholstered seat. Prepped for this moment, I was sitting on the aisle in the very back of the theatre and had taken extra medicine to ensure I would be able to move and make a fast exit, if necessary. Tony quickly retrieved my walker from an usher and, with the help of a stranger, pulled me to my feet and up two stairs. Another usher pushed open the two sets of doors leading to the lobby. Disaster was averted.

I had no idea what a big business incontinence is until I began shopping for absorbent pads. Standing in front of the wall of pads at my local pharmacy, I was overwhelmed by the choices. How significant is the difference between “ultimate” and “maximum” absorbency? How do I know whether I need an extra long length pad? I felt like I was 13 again, looking at sanitary napkin products. This celebrated rite of passage, shared with girlfriends and whispered to relatives, has no equal when it comes to browsing adult pads. Another stigma to be vanquished.

Treatment depends on the type and cause of your bladder control problem, how serious it is, and what best fits your lifestyle. Start with the simplest and safest treatments first.

  • Avoid bladder irritants including alcohol, caffeinated drinks (e.g. coffee, tea, and pop).
  • Drink enough water so you won’t become dehydrated.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Train your bladder to increase the interval between emptying and the amount of fluid it can hold.
  • Practice pelvic floor muscle (Kegels) exercises to strengthen and tone the muscles that support the pelvic organs and control the opening and closing of the bladder.

If all these approaches fail, see your doctor to discuss medical and surgical options as a last resort.

Each of us must decide for ourselves whether we give in to incontinence and become prisoners in our own homes or go forth into the world prepared with the knowledge we need to tackle whatever life may throw us at. I choose the latter; how about you?

2 comments on “Breaking the silence on incontinence

  1. parkinsonscare
    August 25, 2019

    Thanks for tackling this subject. Hubby has similar issues and has had PD for the same length of time, so I totally understand.

  2. Ron Jedlinski
    August 29, 2019

    I share your affliction, but I just came back from Mayo Urology( #1 in the world) and was a good to go. I can’t shut off completely, but I can handle it without discomfort.
    It is something I can live with . Getting old sucks , but it beats the alternative.

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