It is not acceptable to think that just because someone is a wheelchair user, they have more difficulty managing incontinence than a person that is not a wheelchair user would.
It is also not acceptable that wheelchair users should be recommended to just use pads or other forms of incontinence products to better manage their situation. Unfortunately, many ignorant healthcare professionals have expressed views in this way.
A lot of people live with neurologic disorders, disorders from their urinary system and live with bladder related health problems.
Continence does not just deal with the physical movement of passing urine or of relieving oneself of stool, but it also involves things like fluid control, diet, routine and the environment one is exposed to.
Though everyone has to go through this routine of relieving, it is even more of a challenge for wheelchair users. This is mostly because for a wheelchair user there is that added discomfort of wondering where they can quickly go to relieve themselves.
Two Types of Incontinence
There are generally two types of urinary incontinence:
Urge incontinence occurs when the muscles around the bladder contract at will without any warning.
Stress incontinence occurs when the muscles around your bladder are unable to keep up with the pressure exerted on them by a lot of urine pressing to be released.
People who suffer from urinary incontinence have as their first precautionary measure the instinct to reduce fluid intake. One of the disadvantages of this method is that it creates concentrated urine in your bladder, which causes irritation on the bladder and thus creating frequency. Thus, it’s better to find a positive balance by taking in fluids.
Here’s How to Tackle It:
Empty your bladder regularly by going to the toilet whenever you feel the need about every 2-3 hours.
Try to find bathrooms that are appropriate by researching your environment beforehand so that you know there are facilities nearby.
This might sound silly, but it comes in handy. Keep a bladder diary. This helps you know your bowel movement so that you can be better prepared.
Limit or completely avoid intake of alcohol and coffee. These are called diuretics and can irritate your bladder.
Do not smoke as it causes damage to small vessels, which in turn weakens the tissues and thus the ability to control the bladder.
Exercise regularly. As a wheelchair user with pelvic control problems, you want to engage in pelvic floor exercises. If you don’t have control of your pelvic area, then use any form of exercise to manage your weight as urinary incontinence can be controlled by weight loss.
As a wheelchair user you want to consider your environment and the routine of your bladder. It does not necessarily mean that the incontinence has to control your routine, but you just have to better understand how, when, where and why your bladder becomes active.
Options to better manage it might be using pads or a catheter.
When suffering from a spinal cord injury you might experience a communication interruption between the nerves in the spinal cord and the brain, especially the nerves that control bowel and bladder function. This in turn causes incontinence. This bladder dysfunction is called neurogenic bowel or neurogenic bladder.
A bowel accident might occur depending on whether the injury that occurred was supra or sub sacral spine.
It is especially important to follow the above routines for the control of fecal incontinence. Luckily there are bowel management regimes and training for a positive outcome as a wheelchair user like inducing bowel emptying at a particular set time.