A pond

It Can Happen to Anyone

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

Please share some information with your readers about a topic nobody wants to talk about: incontinence. My wife is only 61 but she had a severe problem with it. She was VERY depressed, humiliated and felt like she was stuck with it the rest of her life and there was nothing doctors could do. She saw a specialist numerous times, but nothing helped. He checked her for cancer, he tried her on those “gotta go” drugs, had her measure input and output for 3 days, and told her to do Kegel exercises, which she was already doing. She would close herself in the bathroom and just sob at times.

It wasn’t just that she was having “leaks” — that happens too, like it does to a lot of us, but that part she could handle. The bigger problem: She was completely wetting herself if she slept more than 2 hours at a time. Her bladder just didn’t wake her up to tell her to get up and go. She wore thick pads all the time, and slept on several waterproof pads with 2 more disposable bed pads underneath her. She was ready to start setting the alarm for every two hours to get up to urinate. She was exhausted all the time, and we were spending a fortune on pads.

But then a miracle happened. During a visit to her regular doctor, she told the doc why she was disappointed in the specialist. Her doctor suggested a medicine (a hormone) that is prescribed for bedwetting children. My wife took it that night. She was still asleep when I left for work the next day, but she called me later to tell me that she slept for eight hours straight and had just woken up “bone dry”! She’s been on the medication now for several months.

Lessons learned: Don’t assume a specialist knows more than your G.P.! And if you’re an adult who wets the bed, don’t give up! Do some research, and advocate for yourself with your medical providers. My wife wrote to that specialist and gave him a piece of her mind. That drug should have been the first thing he tried. He’s a UROLOGIST, for Pete’s sake! She had even asked him about the hormone after reading something about it, but he pooh-poohed it and she didn’t push it. He could have spared her months and months of anguish and despair.

Angry But Relieved

Dear Reader,

The business of aging can be pretty darned unpleasant at times. Naturally, some are squeamish about such a delicate condition as incontinence. However, I believe it is better to put issues into the spotlight rather than live in silent misery. I know I speak for many when I say “thank you” for addressing this very common issue.

What really struck me about this situation was that positive resolution was the result of your wife’s tenacity and, more importantly, her ability to speak up. In today’s medical world, these two actions prove to be central to receiving good health care.

But here’s the problem for many of us over fifty; we were taught to believe that physicians had all of the answers. Many Boomers and Seniors are reluctant to challenge medical opinions. The silence that follows can be further compounded when one feels that disagreement equals confrontation, which may also an be ugly concept to be avoided at all costs!

It’s time for ALL of us to understand that when it comes to health care, advocating on our own behalf, or for those we love, is NOT a negative! It is our responsibility as patients to communicate clearly and honesty with health care professionals. Sometimes, as uncomfortable as it may feel, that requires standing up for ourselves.

And if you are simply unable to do this? Take an advocate with you to your medical appoints. I know this can feel difficult but you just may end up receiving better care. Really now, do you want your pride to prevent you from enjoying a long and comfortable life? I sure hope not!

Finally, educate yourself through reputable sources but please, please understand that it’s entirely possible to overdose on Internet searches! Use your common sense. It works every time!

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