11 Questions to Ask When Choosing Incontinence Products

Before you dive into the ever-expanding world of incontinence products and supplies, be sure that your parent sees her doctor to find out whether her incontinence is treatable. Contrary to common belief, incontinence isn't a normal part of aging. It does strike about one in ten people over the age of 65, though, either temporarily or more long-term, and it's more common among women.

To get started, bear in mind that people often need more than one product to accommodate different levels of activity. Also, the first one you try may not be right for your parent's needs. Just as humans come in all shapes and sizes, so do incontinence products. If you keep looking, you'll find something that will work. 

Dealing with incontinence can be embarrassing. Product dealers are well aware of this. Many have 800 numbers, and some actually make house calls to show you their line of goods and allow you to try or purchase several kinds to see what works. Most products can also be ordered over the Internet or bought at pharmacies or sometimes in bulk at medical supply stores at discounted prices.

The checklist below will help you figure out whether or not a product may work for your parent.

  1. How absorbent is the product?

    Depending on how much leakage your parent has, you'll need different levels of absorbency. If your parent leaks only a little during the day but a lot at night, you'll want to find out which products work for those situations. If you try a couple styles that tout absorbency, see how long they protect before they have to be changed.

  2. Can you hear it when your parent walks?

    Some products have great absorbency but make noise when the person wearing them moves around. A product that crunches may not be the best choice for a quiet get-together with a few people.

  3. How bulky is it?

    A bulky incontinence product may be fine for bedtime but not suitable if your parent is wearing tailored clothes.

  4. How comfortable is it?

    Some products may be comfortable before your parent has leakage but really uncomfortable after use and before your parent can reach a bathroom. Some products have better moisture barriers that wick the urine or feces away from the skin. Some have elastic leg bands that may or may not be comfortable. Some are contoured; others are not.

  5. Does it indicate when a change is needed?

    Some products are equipped with a strip that changes color when changing is needed.

  6. Does it have a moisture barrier that works in all positions?

    A moisture barrier may work while your parent is standing or seated but less well while he's lying down.

  7. Is it easy to change?

    If your parent can't change himself for any reason, you'll want to look for products that are easy to open and close with adhesive tabs, tapes, or Velcro. Or you might consider pull-up briefs that your parent may be able to remove and put on more easily.

  8. Is there a style that looks like normal briefs or underpants?

    If your parent is embarrassed about having to wear protection, a style that looks like men's briefs or women's underpants may be a good choice.

  9. Does it prevent odor?

    Some products are deodorized. Some have moisture barriers. Depending on how well they work, they can protect against unwanted odor.

  10. How is it packaged?

    If you're going on an outing with your parent or traveling somewhere, packaging is important for discreetly carrying and disposing of incontinence products. Some come individually wrapped, while larger, bulkier products may need to be carried in a separate travel bag.

  11. How much does it cost?

    Products are priced differently. Some dealers give discounts for buying in bulk, buying online, or through mail order.

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