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Incontinence Aids

Maria Basso Lipani, LCSW

Summary: Incontinence is a condition that is rarely talked about but can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.  The most common kind of incontinence is urinary incontinence, but bowel incontinence can also occur in those with late stage Alzheimer’s, ALS and Multiple Sclerosis.  Using some of the many incontinence aids that exist can help a person to feel more confident in social situations thereby reducing the risk of social isolation.

Dear Maria: My mother has dementia and lives in an assisted living facility.  Incontinence is becoming more and more of an issue for her.  Over the years she has used a variety of incontinence aids including panty liners and pads.  However, as her dementia has progressed, she has had to switch to disposable absorbent underwear and uses several pairs each day.  I’m wondering how to know if I’m buying her the right product and if there’s anything more that can be done to stop this problem.  By the way, I was absolutely shocked by the price of these things!  Any advice on where I could find them cheaper?

Kathy, Hope, Arkansas

Dear Kathy: When it comes to urinary incontinence aids, the best products to use are ones that can hold a good amount of urine, dry quickly so that your mother’s skin is protected from breakdown which can lead to sores, and are as comfortable to wear as possible.  Of course every company that manufactures incontinence aids claims that their product meets all three of these criteria, but this isn’t always the case.  Find out from one of the aides which products other residents are using at the assisted living facility and then test several to find the one that works best for your mom.

With regard to the cost of incontinence aids, I certainly hear your concerns.  Why not approach the individual companies that make them and ask for free samples or at the very least, some coupons?  Believe me – all of these companies want your business long-term so it wouldn’t hurt to ask.  Once you find the product that you think is best, see if you can buy it in bulk through one of the discount surplus chains.

One more thing…while there’s no way that I’m aware of to “stop” incontinence when the cause is dementia, something that may help to manage it a bit better would be to ask the staff at the assisted living facility to prompt your mother to use the toilet at regular intervals.  You can do the same if she is with you.  In those with dementia, incontinence often occurs because the person can no longer recognize and/or interpret the urge to urinate. That said, emptying the bladder regularly can help to reduce the incidences of loss of control.  

I hope this is helpful to you.  If you do decide to test several incontinence aids, please keep me posted on what you find.   I’d be more than happy to share your thoughts in an upcoming post.