Travelling with urinary incontinence

The holidays are a time of travel, and if you’re dealing with urinary incontinence, this time of year may also come with its share of anxiety.

At home, managing urinary incontinence can become second nature. Not only are you in your safe space with a support system that makes life with incontinence manageable, you also have the peace of mind of knowing that if you do have a leak or accident, there’s an easy fix. 

However, you shouldn’t let incontinence prevent you from travelling if that’s what you wish to do. With a bit of preparation, your upcoming trip can be a stress-free experience, allowing yourself the opportunity to connect with family and friends and focus on what’s important to you. 

Dr. Brandy Archie, occupational therapist and founding director at Accessible Living, says that you should try to bring everything that you are already using to manage incontinence at home. 

“It’s one less thing to do while travelling,” Archie said. She adds: “If you’re staying in a hotel, ask for a handicap accessible room, which will give you a higher toilet seat and grab bar, so it’s an easy in and out.” 

“If you’re staying in a hotel, ask for a handicap accessible room.”

Schedule bathroom visits

The number one suggestion Archie has is time voiding.

“Even if you don’t feel the urge to go, go every couple of hours,” she said. “That way you’re in control of getting to the bathroom rather than at the mercy of your surroundings, because you’re not in your regular environment.

“At home, you can rush because you know how far you have to go, but in an airport, or somewhere that you’re not very familiar with, rushing could lead to an accident.”

A great tool for those using the time voiding technique is the DFree: a small wearable piece of hardware that uses ultrasound technology to send information about bladder fullness to the user. The DFree allows the wearer to get real-time data about bladder fullness, as well as alerts about when it’s time to go, based on past patterns. 

The DFree allows users more control and confidence over timing their bathroom visits and removes the guesswork.

Archie added that if you’re worried about having a leak, wearing protection such as adult diapers or pantiliners may be a good idea, even if that’s not part of your normal routine. Anything you can do for added peace of mind will make travelling more enjoyable.

“Even if you don’t feel the urge to go, go every couple of hours.”

Talk about it

If you plan on staying with family, having a conversation beforehand can be very helpful for everyone involved.

“Ask about stairs and railings and anything that can make it easier for you to move around and get to the bathroom,” Archie said. “You want to have that conversation with the family before, so it’s not the first thing you have to deal with as soon as you get in the door.”

And depending on your comfort level, being open about incontinence worries with family members could make it possible for others to talk about their own issues; this is a very common problem, Archie said, but one that’s rarely discussed. 

“You’re likely not the only person,” Archie said. “It’s just that no one else is talking about it. Sometimes it just takes one person to be open enough to talk about it. If you’re worried about not getting to the bathroom on time, bring it up and you might be surprised how understanding everybody might already be, and they’ll say, ‘I hadn’t thought of that, no problem—we’ll clear the toys on the way to the bathroom.’”

“You’re likely not the only person.”