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Incontinence is not uncommon for individuals with disabilities. Incontinence refers to an individual's loss of bladder or bowel control. Normally, the bladder stores the urine produced in the kidneys until it is convenient to urinate. However, this process may be upset by a variety of reasons, including disabilities such as spina bifida or bladder exstrophy (a congenital condition causing the bladder to be turned inside out).

The first step in coping with incontinence is to see a doctor. The medical community has recently learned much more about the diagnosis of incontinence. There are five types of urinary incontinence. Stress incontinence is the leakage of small amounts of urine when coughing, sneezing, straining or lifting. Urge incontinence is the need to urinate and the inability to reach the toilet in time. Overflow incontinence is the spilling over of small amounts of urine when the bladder is full. Reflex incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine when the person is unaware of the need to urinate. Enuresis describes bedwetting in children (who are otherwise toilet-trained) and adults. Many parents believe children will outgrow bedwetting, but it is important to see a physician if it continues. Ninety percent of bedwetting in children is not caused by physical abnormalities and can be cured with a combination of counseling, bladder stretching exercises and behavior modification. Incontinence can also be caused by surgeries such as lower intestinal or rectal surgery. It is necessary to have a doctor determine the cause of the incontinence.

Eighty percent of children born with spina bifida experience some form of urinary incontinence. Treatment depends on the extent and location of the spinal abnormality and may include medication, surgery or intermittent catheterization. Children born with bladder exstrophy will require surgery.


There have been many developments in the treatment of incontinence, including surgical and nonsurgical techniques. New medications have also been developed to help treat incontinence. In addition to medications, treatments include bladder exercises, training programs to change toilet and drinking habits, surgery and absorbent products and devices.

A new method for coping with incontinence is available through the nonprofit Simon Foundation for Continence's I Will Manage (IWM) program of support sessions. The IWM Program -- the first of its kind in the nation -- reaches out to those who have incontinence and provides them with the education, support and care that can help them cope. IWM responds to this health care challenge by creating a supportive environment for people with incontinence, communicating the information that will help them understand their condition, and bringing them into contact with the many options available to cure, treat or manage the problem.

Offered without charge to qualified professionals, the program is designed for easy implementation in any community. A comprehensive Program Kit provides all the resources necessary to organize, promote and conduct an I Will Manage program at a local hospital or other facility. With IWM, help and hope are given to those who suffer from this long-neglected disability.

The I Will Manage program is a series of four patient group sessions, with an additional session devoted to those caring for someone with incontinence. The support sessions bring people with incontinence into contact with others who share their disability, and with the medical professionals in the community who can provide the necessary information. The program is packaged in an easy-to-use kit that includes: a complete promotional campaign; detailed guidelines for organizing and hosting the patient groups; and full course material for each session. The sessions concentrate on the following topics: Why Incontinence Happens; Cures and Treatments; Products and Devices; Coping With Feelings; and What Caregivers Need to Know.

For more information, contact I Will Manage, The Simon Foundation for Continence, P.O. Box 815, Wilmette, 111. 60091, (708) 864-3913.
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Title Annotation:includes resource listing
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:"Mini" communication boards.
Next Article:Standing aids.

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