Most people don’t want to wear diapers for adults, but for the millions of Americans who have incontinence, it can be challenging to find alternatives to wearing some kind of absorbent pad or underwear.
There are different types of incontinence and the severity can range from occasionally leaking urine to having a sudden urge to urinate that is so strong you can’t make it to the toilet on time.
Wearing absorbent underwear can bring relief and a greater sense of confidence. And, fortunately, the quality of the absorbent products on the market for adults has improved immensely in recent years. They’re not nearly as noticeable as they once were, making it easier for people with incontinence to leave their home or travel more with less worry of a potentially embarrassing episode.
Dr. Brandy Archie works with patients every day to explore alternatives to managing incontinence. She’s an Occupational Therapist and Founding Director of AccessAble Living in Kansas City, Missouri, and understands the reluctance people have about wearing adult diapers.
“The number one thing that I recommend is for people to get a referral to an occupational therapist,” she said. “An OT can match medical reasons for incontinence with practical solutions on how to deal with it. Doctors will have the basic answers, but OTs are the ones who work with these issues all the time.”
If a patient doesn’t want to wear absorbent products, then Dr. Archie may start by asking if they’ve tried going to the bathroom every couple of hours.
“Many people don’t really know the options of how to deal with incontinence,” she said. They see the commercials on television for Depends and other products and may be too embarrassed to seek help or reach for other solutions.
Often, Dr. Archie finds that people are looking for options for night time. If they’re finding that they can’t sleep through the night without an accident, then she helps them explore different approaches.
One of the most basic approaches is to avoid liquids (especially caffeinated beverages) in the evenings and empty your bladder completely before bedtime.
There could be safety concerns as well, especially for elderly people who find themselves getting up frequently in the middle of the night. They can experiment with a nightlight, which will help them find a safe path to the toilet.
If they’re afraid of falling at night, then she might recommend a bedside urinal. There are non-spill urinals on the market today for men and women. This is an option for people who may need assistance going to the toilet, but who don’t want to wake their spouses. You might also try a bedside commode.
For men, there are also condom catheters. This is an option for men who have a chronic incontinence issue that is leading to serious, frequent interruptions to sleep.
Because everyone is different, it’s important to work with an OT to find a solution that is right for you, said Dr. Archie.
For example, if you have stress incontinence, then you may need to urinate as soon as you get out of bed or out of a chair.
”If that effort causes you to go to the bathroom, then you can go to a pelvic floor specialist who can teach you how to make those muscles stronger,” she said. There are a variety of pelvic floor exercises you can try.
“I like to start by asking people if they’re able to make it to the bathroom on time and then we find out what they are currently doing to help prevent accidents from happening,” she said. “We can work through other ways to think about it.”
If you’d like more information on the range of products available, you may want to visit the National Association for Continence website.
The bottom line is that absorbent underwear may be right for some people, but it may not be right for you. As this article from the Cleveland Clinic says: it really depends on your situation. How much is your incontinence bothering you? How much of a problem is it for you when you’re out and about or at night when you’re trying to get a good night’s rest.
If you do need to wear adult diapers, you can make the best of the situation by making sure you change them regularly, use a barrier ointment to help avoid irritation, and wear loose-fitting clothes. Doing those things will help you stay comfortable and worrying less about your incontinence or about others noticing what you’re wearing.