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When adult diapers go bad: a slow trickle
3 caregiving considerations you might have overlooked
Hello KIRC fam~
In true Keeping It REAL fashion, I want to share with you an incident in the early days of my caregiving journey. It is one that has stuck with me over the years and one I don’t often hear folks talking about.
Adult diapers. Yes, we’re going there. Why? Because this is a true case of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’ And let’s face it - why would we?
I thought now was as good a time as any to share an excerpt from an article I recently penned for an aging industry publication (I’ll share that once it is published).
The first time I recall discussing this topic was with a friend more than ten years ago. At that time she had just stepped into the role of family caregiver to her elderly mother.
Our exchange that day was slightly comedic, but memorable and educational.
“Don’t get the cheap generic ones,” my friend sternly warned. “The elastic around the legs is flimsy. Mom had an accident and I could see urine trickling down her leg, dripping into her shoe!”
We laughed at the absurdity of the situation, but just behind the chuckles was a bit of fear and sadness. We both sensed this would be our reality as we cared for our mothers.
Memories: Good, bad, & dirty
I can recall that conversation as clearly as if had taken place just yesterday.
It has also been more than three years since I said goodbye to my mother. Still, there are moments when the reality (and yes, almost absurdity) of some of my experiences involving adult diapers still shake me to the core. I believe caregiver trauma is real and long-lasting.
But today, I want to provide some practical considerations.
1. Don’t go cheap
Just as my dear friend warned years ago, don’t go cheap. Adult diapers can be expensive, but purchase the highest quality brand and style you can afford.
You’ll be glad you did. Because yes, the generic brands often do have flimsy elastic around the waists, hips, and legs. And yes, this can lead to slips, leaks, and spills.
I don’t have scientific proof of this, but rather, practical and visual. I tried to provide my mother with only the highest quality products, all the time.
It was after her condition declined and we had to make the choice of moving to an assisted living location, that I witnessed the difference in product quality.
The facility offered personal items as part of the fee plan. I suspect for cost reasons, (or perhaps buying in bulk), the brand of adult diapers offered were not as firm, well-padded, or moisture-absorbing as those I used at home.
Sure enough, my mother reported back to me increased incidents of leakage, which meant more trips to be changed and cleaned.
She complained the material rubbed and chaffed her skin. She also experienced issues with lack of padding at the bottom, which added to irritation to skin and bone.
I was fortunate enough to be able to afford a higher quality adult diaper, so I chose to continue supplying my mother (and her care team) with adult diapers better suited for her. (My mother informed me sometimes the staff would snag one of her better diapers to use for someone else. That is another story for another day).
2. Changing and cleanliness
If a loved one in your care (or perhaps you) is moving into the reality-zone of needing to wear adult diapers, pay close attention to the importance of regular changing, airing-out, and general good hygiene.
Consider this: just like regular underwear, simply because you haven’t ‘done a doody’ in your pants doesn’t mean you wear the same ones over and over!
Let’s keep it REAL.
What better place than inside a worn, hot, moist, and slightly soiled adult diaper, for bacteria to form?
I know, somewhat gross to think about, right?
But, if you don’t think about it, your loved one (or you) could quickly be looking at this result: Urinary tract infection, better known as UTI.
As cited by the National Library of Medicine:
Urinary tract infection (UTI) is common in older adults, mainly due to several age-related risk factors. Symptoms of UTI are atypical in the elderly population, like hypotension, tachycardia, urinary incontinence, poor appetite, drowsiness, frequent falls, and delirium. UTI manifests more commonly and specifically for this age group as delirium or confusion in the absence of a fever.
UTI’s can often be overlooked, but can also be the doorway to additional health issues or in some cases, mimic other serious conditions.
What other DIY lessons learned, tips, and or tricks have you picked up along the way that could help others? KIRC would love to hear from you!
3. Privacy and dignity
Imagine leaving your home to run a few errands. While walking through your grocery store, your bladder or bowels decide they simply can’t wait until you find a bathroom or return home.
Horrible scenario, right?
I never wanted my mother to feel worried, scared, or have a loss of dignity around this topic. I figured, if mothers with young babies carry their ‘baby supply bags’ filled with everything they need, why shouldn’t we, as caregivers, do the same?
There are many discreet and well-designed carry bags that serve this purpose
On any outing, I made sure to have a bag stocked with extra adult diapers, a small towel, wash cloth, liquid soap, a pair of latex gloves, baby wipes, a change of regular underwear, and a change of pants.
That way, no matter what might happen, I could ensure we were covered, clean, and safe.
Try to purchase whatever items you use in bulk. It can save you money and time.
If your budget is limited, research any local organizations which might provide reduced cost or free personal supply items.
Start with your local Area Agency on Aging, which can likely refer you to other groups that provide assistance in your respective areas.
Isn’t it great that we can chat so openly and honestly about these topics? Yeah, I think so, too! Good luck!
Until next time~