Nearly 25 million adult Americans face some degree of incontinence, a subject that has long been stigmatized in our culture by fear and ridicule, and which unfortunately may still provide some awkward moments in any discussion between patient and caregiver. The causes of incontinence are myriad: from loss of muscle tone as we age, to bladder or kidney disease, urinary infection, pelvic injuries, dementia, prostate problems, MS and even stress. Thankfully there have been many strides made in incontinence products, providing solutions that give the person with incontinence much more comfort, both physically and psychologically, than ever before.
Adult incontinence can cause both social embarrassment from wetting clothing or bedding and physical and hygiene problems, including serious skin irritation. While the terminology of the products themselves may initially seem confusing because of so many choices, the good news is that there are dozens of products suitable for any degree of adult incontinence and any budget. Some adult incontinence products are designed to work with traditional undergarments while others, like disposable adult diapers, are meant to replace underpants or panties.
In general, the choices you will make regarding adult protective underwear will be: disposable or washable and reusable; anatomically designed for men or women; styles ranging from thin adhesive liner pads or guards to prevent the occasional accident to designs that look just like traditional underwear. A popular style of adult diaper, the belted undergarment, often incorporates side tabs that act as adjustable fasteners; rip-away sides allow for easy changing. Equally popular is the pull-up adult brief style; some can be teamed with a disposable liner for another layer of protection. High-tech polymer absorbent materials allow today’s adult diaper to absorb considerable fluid, and some styles may be relied on to last up to 8 hours or more. Fortunately, the wide range of adult diapers produced today can be worn discreetly, comfortably and without any rustling noise that could make the wearer feel self-conscious.
Generally, adult diapers worn for urinary or fecal incontinence come in a number of different absorbencies graded from moderate (day use) to heavy (overnight use). The correct choice of an adult diaper is determined by the wearer’s degree of incontinence, both the frequency and urgency. Booster pads, guards and liners further extend the absorbent capacity of adult diapers when necessary. Other built-in features, depending on the manufacturer, include anti-leak cuffs, internal skin care protector, odor control, wetness indicator and breathable, softer cotton-like cloth.
For complete incontinence care, there are a number of companion products to supplement the use of adult diapers for incontinence. A major purchasing consideration is protective bedding supplies used to protect mattresses and even chairs and sofas with waterproof covers, sheets and underpads. Other incontinence supplies of particular interest to caregivers are disposable gloves, washcloths and wipes with moisturizing properties and even a bedwetting alarm.