How often should adult diapers be changed to avoid a UTI?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother is now wearing adult diapers. She's recently been treated for a urinary tract infection. How ofter should her diapers be changed?

Expert Answer

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Urinary tract infections(UTI)are a common problem for many women, young and old. However, in the elderly they can be a big problem as the symptoms are often hard to recognize and they can be difficult to treat. The risk of getting a UTI becomes even higher as incontinence worsens. To try and reduce this risk, here are some recommendations:

1) Change her adult diapers (briefs) as soon as they become soiled or wet. If your mother does not wet her briefs often, then maybe you could switch her to pads or something smaller (especially if her leakage is small). Keep in ming the briefs do not allow for good air circulation, which can lead to skin irritation and rashes. 2) Make sure she is drinking enough fluids. She should drink 6 to 8 glasses (8 ounces) of liquid daily to make sure she is well hydrated. This encourages more urine production, which will help flush bacteria out of her bladder.
3) People suggest drinking cranberry juice helps, and some research shows it does help reduce the risk of UTI. She can try drinking about 3 eight ounce glasses of PURE cranberry juice (not cocktail- look for 100% juice on the label). 4) After an incontinence episode, make sure she goes to the bathroom and sits on the toilet to make sure her bladder is truly empty. Then, good, gentle cleansing after each incontinence episode is advisable. I recommend pouring some warm water over the area to cleanse (you can use a clean cup), then patting dry with toilet paper or a towel to dry. No rubbing! (If not at home, you can use cleansing cloths/ baby wipes. Make sure they are hypoallergenic and unscented. I would not use these all the time though, as they still can dry out and irritate the skin). 5) To try and help her incontinence, see if reminding her to go to the toilet her more often might help. I usually recommend on arising, before and after meals, and before bed. If this isn't often enough (she still has accidents), then try every two hours.

Hope this advice helps. You can also check out the many websites devoted to UTI's out there, as they may have more helpful suggestions for you.