Therapy for Incontinence–Awareness is Key

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more than 13 million US citizens have incontinence. What many of these people do not realize is that they have viable treatment options within PT or OT to improve their quality of life.

In an effort to promote awareness, we asked Melissa Clarke, OT who has been treating patients with incontinence for three and a half years, a few questions:

What patient demographics do you typically treat and what patient education do you provide?

It can be an embarrassing topic and individuals dealing with it may think, “I’m the only one with this problem,” but in reality it’s a major problem for many. It can affect females, males, young adults, elderly and even kids with nighttime wetting.

The main thing I teach is a home exercise program. I talk about lifestyle changes and changes they can make with diet and fluid intake. We touch on nutrition. We talk about relaxation techniques. A lot of times the problem isn’t necessarily a muscular weakness, but a muscular imbalance. The treatment is really individualized– you need to find out what the problem is and then set up the treatment plan accordingly.

What training is required to start an incontinence program?

If you’re going to be treating this population, specialized training is a must through continuing education courses. And of course, you have to be comfortable talking with patients privately on a sensitive topic. A separate treatment area from the main gym or rehab department is necessary for patient comfort. Private, quiet and warm rooms are best to allow patients the opportunity to openly communicate their personal issues with incontinence. Also, if you the therapist are not at ease, your patient will not be at ease.

How best can you market the program and/or educate the public?

The number one way of getting people to participate in the program is through marketing to doctors and providing patient success stories. There are alternatives, like medication and surgery, but those options aren’t particularly effective. We want to recommend therapy first.

I’ve submitted articles to the paper that an incontinence program is available. I’ve also spoken at women’s health luncheons since most of my clients are women, or booths at wellness fairs. Another opportunity is the women’s health day sponsored by the local hospital.

Is there anything clinicians interested in this program should know?

Don’t be afraid of the topic. Because somewhere along their personal life, they might have those problems themselves. It is a very private thing that nobody likes to talk about. Think about bringing awareness because it’s a widespread issue for many people.

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