When Is It Time for Adult Diapers? Dealing with Incontinence

Aging can be a difficult, delicate process.

As your parent or loved one gets older, you watch tasks that used to come easily for them slip away. You likely want to help them maintain their quality of life and keep their dignity at the same time.

A common issue many elderly face is bladder incontinence, though some also experience bowel incontinence.

The inability to control their bladder or bowel movements can greatly compromise their dignity. Just coming to terms with incontinence is hard since it’s such a very personal topic.

However, it’s important to note that incontinence is not the affected person’s fault. People can address this problem in an effective and dignified manner.

RELATED: How Balance Therapy Helps Seniors with Fall Risk

Factors that Cause Incontinence

Loss of bladder control is very common, especially among women.

Things that lead to incontinence in middle-aged women include:

In the elderly, the most common reason for bladder leakage is weakening of the bladder and pelvic muscles. This occurs naturally in both men and women as they age, and simply means it is more difficult to keep from urinating.

Many elderly people experience bladder incontinence, but knowing how to address it can be confusing and embarrassing.

Find a UPMC primary care doctor:

When Is It Time for Adult Diapers?

Adult diapers — also called briefs and incontinence pads — provide a great solution for many people.

But there are a few steps to take before turning to diapers.

If you or a loved one is experiencing bladder leakage, consider the following.

For younger or middle-aged women with incontinence due to childbirth:

  • A thin panty liner or protector in the underwear can be enough for accidental leaks during a sneeze or laugh attack.

For elderly people or those with persistent, significant incontinence:

  • A doctor can perform urodynamic tests to learn the underlying cause of the leakage.
  • Testing involves both physical exams and urine measurement.
  • In some cases, medicine or other treatment can resolve the issue.

But sometimes, medicine can’t help incontinence due to aging.

As they age, an elderly loved one’s bladder leakage may result in an unpleasant odor, or cause them to wet the bed.

Some people need to strategically plan car trips and social events to stay close to a bathroom and avoid embarrassing leakage. They may start to wear clothing that hides wet stains.

It may be time to talk to your loved one about wearing adult diapers when:

  • Incontinence begins interfering with their daily life.
  • Their doctor determines no other treatments can help control leakage.

RELATED: Physical Therapy for Incontinence

Beginning to Wear Adult Diapers

Bladder leakage is embarrassing, and many people are sensitive to the word “diaper” due to its connection with babies. If this is the case for your loved one, try changing your language and using a different term.

Talk with them about their concerns and help them see the benefits of adult diapers, including:

  • Comfort — wearing a diaper can help avoid much of the discomfort felt when bladder leaks happen in regular clothing.
  • Less stress — with adult diapers, the worry of clothing stains goes down. They also resolve the anxiety of constantly searching for a bathroom nearby when leaks happen.
  • Style — most adult diapers today are absorbent while still being thin and discreet under many types of clothing.
  • Convenience — modern adult diapers usually pull on and off in the same way as underwear, so they’re easy to change.

Consider the following items before starting to wear adult diapers:

  • Take body measurements to make sure you’re getting the right sized diaper.
  • In contrast to all-plastic diapers, breathable briefs may be a less bulky and noisy option.
  • It may take some trial and error to learn what clothing you can wear without noticing a diaper underneath.
  • Buying diapers online can be discrete and provide some privacy.

During the loss of independence that comes with aging, the loss of bladder control is perhaps the hardest to deal with.

Whether you or a loved one suffers from incontinence, it helps to understand the benefits adult diapers can provide. Realizing it’s time to transition to wearing adult diapers may not be as tough as you think.