Product Choice

Up to date product information on incontinence management products

Incontinence Supplies

Caregiving 101: Understanding incontinence supplies

If you care for someone who is experiencing incontinence issues, you are likely overwhelmed each time you walk down the aisle of incontinence supplies. Not only are there a myriad of brands, but each brand has a wide variety of types of products. The following is a breakdown of each type of product and how they work best:

Types of products

  1. Pull up briefs
  2. Description:

    Full fitted briefs that take the place of regular undergarments with increased absorbency.

    Best for:

    • People who are able to manage their own incontinence.
    • People who are ambulatory or able to at least bear weight.
    • Bowel and bladder incontinence.

    Not So Good For:

    Changing in bed

  3. Pad inserts
  4. Description:

    Pads designed to fit inside regular underwear to absorb accidental leakage. May have adhesive strip to adhere to undergarment.

    Best for:

    Added absorbency inside regular undergarments or inside pull up briefs. Limit embarrassment when accidents occur - non-bulky

    Not so good for:

    • Complete bladder incontinence
    • Bowel incontinence
  5. Belted briefs
  6. Description:

    Sized between a pad insert and a full brief, these are designed to replace regular undergarments. An elastic band with buttons or other type of attachment device connects to button holes in the brief.

    Best for:

    • Occasional accidents
    • Changing in bed
    • Frequent changes without having to remove all clothing.

    Not so good for:

    • Bowel incontinence
    • Quick changes
  7. Taped Pads:
  8. Description:

    Looks much like a diaper. Taped tabs adhere to each side to secure the garment.

    Best for:

    • Use instead of regular undergarments
    • Bowel incontinence
    • Changing in bed

    Not so good for:

    Changing when standing

  9. Overnight pads
  10. Description:

    These may be in the form of fitted brief or taped brief, but have added absorbency to reduce changes and leakage through the night. Most are also designed to wick moisture away from the skin to prevent skin breakdown.

    Best for:

    • Overnight use when getting up or changing is not possible.
    • Use instead of regular undergarments for someone difficult to change or transfer
    • For someone who is bedridden

    Not so good for:

    Someone who may get frustrated and pull the garment off and/or apart. (there are little absorbency balls in the garment that spread if the cloth is ripped)

  11. Fabric Chair pads:
  12. Description:

    Washable pads with a water repellent fabric on one side and absorption layers on the other side.

    Best for:

    • Placing on seats and furniture to protect against leakage
    • Placing underneath a person in bed to protect mattress against leakage
    • Use as a draw sheet to move someone in bed

    Not so good for:

    • Use when leakage occurs frequently unless extras are readily available
    • Use when laundry is not able to be done frequently
  13. Disposable Chair pads:
  14. Description:

    Often referred to as Chux pads - these are designed with a plastic backing on one side, and absorbency layers on the other side.

    Best for:

    • Placing on car seats and furniture to protect against leakage
    • Placing underneath a person in bed to protect mattress against leaking

    Not so good for:

    • The environment
    • Using as a draw sheet to move someone in bed

Questions to ask

11 Questions to ask when choosing the right incontinence product

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?

  2. 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.

  3. Can you hear it when your parent walks?

  4. 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.

  5. How bulky is it?

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

  7. How comfortable is it?

  8. 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.

  9. Does it indicate when a change is needed?

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

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

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

  13. Is it easy to change?

  14. 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.

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

  16. 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.

  17. Does it prevent odor?

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

  19. How is it packaged?

  20. 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.

  21. How much does it cost?

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