Caring For Someone With Bowel Incontinence

Caring for a spouse, or loved one, that has fecal incontinence can be frustrating and embarrassing for both of you.

Incontinence is often combined with feelings of shame and as a result isn’t discussed. But covering it up, or ignoring the problem, won’t make it go away.

As a caregiver don’t assume the problem is permanent or think adult diapers and avoiding public situations are the only answer.  Fecal incontinence is actually very common affecting millions of Americans, especially older adults.   Even though most people don’t want to talk about it, doctors and healthcare providers can help – there is no need to suffer from bowel leakage longer than necessary.

What Should I Do About Incontinence?

Don't let bowel leakage keep you from your favorite activities.
Don’t let bowel leakage keep you from your favorite activities.

The first step is to call your doctor and make an appointment.  There are several causes of fecal incontinence, many that can be reversed or properly treated. Sometimes even simple diet changes or switching medications can ease the problem.

In other cases there are minimally invasive and virtually pain-free treatments for incontinence including exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor, or simple injections.

Understand your loved one might be hesitant to discuss the issue with you, or even too embarrassed to speak to a doctor.  Assure them doctors treat this issue frequently.  And incontinence is a medical condition, not a disease.  The sooner a doctor can find out what is causing the bowel leakage the sooner it can be treated which means fewer embarrassing accidents.

Prepare For Your Appointment

Providing as much information as you can will help the doctor diagnose the underlying cause.  Bring details such as:

  • When you first starting noticing the issue
  • What your loved one eats each day
  • Note all accidents including time of day when the bowel leakage occurred
  • How long after a meal did it happen?
  • Any medications your loved one is taking
  • Did your loved one try to get to the bathroom but didn’t make it in time?
  • Do accidents happen at home and in public?

What Causes Fecal Incontinence?

Both bladder and bowel incontinence tend to increase with age, but there are many causes of incontinence.  Injury during childbirth is one of the most common causes. These injuries may cause a separation in the anal muscles and decrease in muscle strength. The nerves supplying the anal muscles may also be injured. While some injuries may be recognized immediately following childbirth, many others may go unnoticed and not become a problem until later in life. In these situations, past childbirth may not be recognized as the cause of incontinence.

Anal operations or injury to the tissue surrounding the anal region similarly can damage the anal muscles and hinder bowel control. Infections around the anal area may destroy muscle tissue leading to problems of incontinence. In addition, as people age, they experience loss of strength in the anal muscles. As a result, a minor problem in a younger person may become more significant later in life.

What Type Of Doctor Should I See About Bowel Leakage?

Some people start by discussing bowel incontinence with the primary care physician.  Others start by seeing a specialist, like the providers at CRS.

Colon and rectal specialists receive advanced training in surgery and specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of colon and rectal problems including bowel, or fecal, incontinence.

CRS is one of the few providers in Central Virginia offering a new, minimally-invasive treatment for bowel incontinence.  InToneMV is a home-based for women and men with bowel leakage.  It combines a customizable probe with muscle stimulation to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which maintain continence.

Don’t let bowel leakage keep you, or your loved one, from doing what you love.  There is help for bowel leakage and we can help.  Contact us today for more information about InToneMV or to make an appointment.






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