Travel Tips for Those with Urinary Incontinence

It is common to have some urinary incontinence as we get older. Often it is a benign inconvenience, other times, it is part of a much larger health problem. If you are traveling with someone who may "have to go," be prepared ahead of time.

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Travel Tips for Those with Urinary Incontinence
4 Min Read August 26th, 2022

When you “have to go” -- you need to go. However, sometimes you cannot hold it, and getting you or a loved one to a bathroom might not be easy if you are traveling.

Bladder control issues affect men and women, although more women have this problem than men. It is embarrassing for everyone, and it sometimes makes the person with bladder issues avoid going out and enjoying life. 

Urinary incontinence, also known as overactive bladder, means someone leaks urine accidentally. The Mayo Clinic says the severity ranges from occasionally leaking urine when a person coughs or sneezes to having an urge to urinate that's so sudden and strong you don't get to a toilet in time.

Types of Urinary Incontinence

There are three types of incontinence:

  • Stress incontinence - urine leaks as pressure is put on the bladder, such as during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects. This type is common in younger and middle-aged women. It also can start around the time of menopause.

  • Overflow incontinence - small amounts of urine leak from a bladder that is always full. Men may have problems emptying their bladder if they have an enlarged prostate that is blocking the urethra.

  • Urge incontinence - happens when people suddenly need to urinate and cannot hold their urine long enough to get to the toilet. People with diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, MS, or stroke are often impacted by urge incontinence. 

  • Functional incontinence - happens primarily when older people have difficulty getting to the bathroom in time due to arthritis or other mobility issues. 

Reasons for Urinary Incontinence

The National Institute on Aging says incontinence happens for various reasons, including urinary tract infections, vaginal infections or irritation, or constipation. Older people are affected more than younger people. Some medications can cause bladder control problems that last a short time. When incontinence lasts longer, it may be due to:

  • Weak bladder or pelvic floor muscles

  • Overactive bladder muscles

  • Damage to nerves that control the bladder from diseases such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or Parkinson's disease

  • Pelvic organ prolapse

Older men frequently have problems with an enlarged prostate gland (a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia - BPH for short) and will eventually start to experience urinary incontinence.

We shouldn't let our anxieties over our incontinence hold us back from living our lives. Here are some travel tips for those who have incontinence.

Urinary incontinence is much more common than you might think—many adults over 65 struggle with it. Despite its commonality, dealing with such a condition can bring feelings of worry and embarrassment. As a result, those with incontinence might think it is better for everyone if they keep to themselves and don't venture out, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Everyone deserves to have fun and live their life to the fullest. 

Pack To Prepare

One of the best ways to travel with confidence is to pack an extra bag that you can access easily. In this bag, you should include a change of clothing, incontinence products, plastic bags, and any medications. If you are traveling with an older family member, be sure they have packed everything they need and double-check before leaving.

Several medications can be used depending on the type of urinary incontinence someone suffers with. A doctor can discuss which one may be the best option. If you take one, bring that - and all medications with you when traveling. 

Whether flying or driving, an accessible emergency bag will be a lifesaver. If you plan to fly, ensure the bag is small enough to take with you onboard the plane and fits your airline's carry-on size standards.

Always take medications and essentials with you in a carry-on bag. If your luggage gets lost, the carry-on will have all essentials. 

Limit Irritant Intake

Many kinds of food and drinks can trigger your incontinence, so it's wise to stay away from those irritants before a busy day of travel. Caffeine is one of the biggest irritants you should try to avoid. Although everyone loves a good cup of Joe in the morning, try to limit your intake as caffeine stimulates your bladder. If you can't give it up, go for decaf or try a soothing herbal tea.

Know How to Ask in Any Language

If you plan on traveling to a country where you aren't familiar with the language, learning some key phrases is a good idea. Amongst those key phrases, make sure to include asking for the location of the nearest bathroom. 

One travel tip for those with incontinence is to go through your travel itinerary and make a note of any layovers in countries or areas where the languages change. Here is how to ask for the nearest toilet in several languages:

Spanish - “ ¿Dónde está el baño?”

French - “pardon, où sont les toilettes?”

Italian - “Mi scusi, dov’e il bagno?” 

German - “Wo ist die toilette, bitte?” 

Portuguese - “Com licença, onde fica o banheiro?”

Japanese - “Toire wa dokodesu?”

Hebrew - "Slikha, ehfo hah sherooteem?"

Arabic - "ayn al-ḥammām?"

Cantonese - "Mm-goy chee-soh hai been-doh-ah?"

England - yes, they speak the Queen's English, so just ask for the loo.

Estonian - “Vabandage, kus on tualett?”

Korean - “Hwa jang shil uh-dee-in-ga-yo.”

Need help with pronouncing the phrases? Get help from Google - 

Always Get Check-Ups with the Doctor

Incontinence is more than an inconvenience; it is a significant health issue. Yes, it impacts a person's quality of life, but it might be related to a much more significant health problem. Ignoring it is not a good idea.

Older people will often not share their incontinence with loved ones. Watch for signs, encourage them to see the doctor, and mention the problem. Incontinence is one of several activities of daily living which can trigger benefits from a Long-Term Care Insurance policy. Some incontinence problems are benign and easily controlled. Either way, mention the problem to the doctor.

Aging happens, and as we age, we all will see a decline in our health, body, and mind. Being proactive with our health and planning is vital. Planning should happen before retirement when your health is still reasonably good.

Learn about long-term health care planning on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning | LTC News.

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About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

Editor's Note

You may have noticed that you cannot hold your bladder like you were able to when you were in your 20s. It happens. Aging happens. The question is, are you prepared for the consequences of aging and declining health?

You might want to delay thinking about this until you get older, but it is probably too late by that time. You start saving for retirement well before you retire. Better plan for long-term health care and protect those savings in your 401(k) and other assets.

Long-Term Care Insurance will not prevent you from getting old; if it did, you would buy a policy right this second! It will, however, give you the guaranteed tax-free benefits that provide you with access to quality care services, including in-home care. Your assets get preserved from the ever-increasing cost of care. Your loved ones will have plenty of time to be family instead of becoming your caregiver.

Now that a dozen states are considering following the State of Washington's lead in implementing a tax on those who do not have a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance policy getting your own policy now will also help you avoid the LTC tax.

Be sure to find a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help match you with the best coverage at the best value based on your age, health, and family history.

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