Incontinence is a taboo subject. But by sharing knowledge and skills on bladder and bowel management we can increase dignity and confidence.

Incontinence is a taboo subject. But by sharing knowledge and skills on bladder and bowel management we can increase dignity and confidence.

We need to talk about incontinence. 

For many people with spinal cord injury, bowel and bladder management is a part of everyday life and vital for health and dignity.

However, we often meet wheelchair users who have never been given basic explanations of continence care. Without the right knowledge and skills to manage their own daily continence needs, people can be left at serious risk of developing skin ulcers. In the best case scenario these are painful and debilitating; in the worst case, they can be fatal if untreated.

The impact on social and community life can’t be underestimated. The risk of being wet or soiled in public can force someone to stay at home, afraid to attend family events or local celebrations. It’s isolating and lonely.

Sam* in Kenya shares his experiences of bowel and bladder care after sustaining a spinal cord injury in a traffic accident:

“Bladder and bowel control was a serious challenge, I used to get embarrassed when I soil myself. I was feeling like my life has come to an end and I could not see any future.

"I was always in my house and avoided meeting people, because I was feeling that they were analysing my situation.”

This is why we make bladder and bowel management a core part of our peer training programmes. Our volunteers teach the essentials and share their own experiences with other wheelchair users to ensure they know exactly what they need to care for their continence.

“After attending Motivation peer training, I learnt how to manage my bowel and bladder. I also learnt more about spinal injury from other person with spinal injury and that have changed my attitude."

It isn’t an exaggeration to say this knowledge is life-changing.

When someone knows they can stay dry and unsoiled, they can gain self-esteem. They are able to increase their confidence and choose to get a job, go to school, join in with their community and enjoy time with their family and friends again.

“I am now a happy, family man. I am now able to interact and participate with my community… I am determined to achieve all that any other individual without any challenges can do.”

*Name has been changed