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The social consequences of living with and dealing with incontinence-A carers perspective

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Katie Brittain


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Incontinence is a discrediting and stigmatising condition for those who experience it, as it signifies a person who is lacking in self-control. For their carers, the very nature of undertaking 'dirty work' signifies a low status and low paid job. Those health care professionals higher in status and financial reward put distance between themselves and bodywork, especially bodywork that deals with bodily decay. However, little is known or has been highlighted about the social consequences that living with and dealing with incontinence can have on informal carers. In this paper we examine the notion of dirty work and 'unbounded' bodies in the role of informal carers. Through qualitative interviews with carers of stroke survivors the negative social consequences of dealing with incontinence for both the survivor and the carer are explored. We also examine the strategies employed by carers and stroke survivors in order to manage the symptom in an attempt to prove the adult status of the survivor and to protect both the identity of the survivor and the carer. The embarrassment of leakage and the moral danger of odour can lead some carers and survivors to make decisions that can isolate both within the confines of their home. In this sense the very meaning of home is transformed into an isolated and marginalised space. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brittain KR, Shaw C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Science and Medicine

Year: 2007

Volume: 65

Issue: 6

Pages: 1274-1283

ISSN (print): 0277-9536

ISSN (electronic): 1873-5347

Publisher: Pergamon


DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.04.002

PubMed id: 17509743


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