Nobody likes to talk about incontinence, but it’s an issue that affects many older adults. As people age, it’s common to experience bladder and bowel control issues that require the use of incontinence supplies. Fortunately, there are more options than ever for seniors to manage their incontinence needs.
From absorbent pads and briefs to disposable bed pads and underpads, people can find the perfect incontinence supplies to suit their needs. With the right products, seniors can maintain their dignity and confidence, even when dealing with incontinence.
- What Is Incontinence?
- Essential Supplies for Incontinence Care
- Where To Buy Incontinence Supplies
What Is Incontinence?
Incontinence is a medical condition that causes involuntary leaks of urine or fecal matter. According to the Urology Care Foundation, a quarter of men and women in the U.S. experience urinary incontinence. Women are more likely to develop incontinence than men and the risk increases after pregnancy and menopause.
There are several types of incontinence, which are caused by different factors and also have different triggers.
The most common types of incontinence are:
Urge incontinence is characterized by feeling an intense urge to urinate. It is often caused by an overactive bladder (OAB), which happens because of nerve damage, infections, low levels of estrogen, and menopause.
This type of incontinence is triggered when exerting pressure on the bladder. Coughing, sneezing, laughing, and lifting can cause urine leaks.
Also known as chronic urinary retention (CUR), overflow incontinence is when the bladder doesn’t empty completely, causing frequent leaking. This type of incontinence is more common in men.
Two or more types of incontinence are experienced. This is often a combination of stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
Differences Between Bladder and Bowel Incontinence
While they may seem similar, there are some key differences between bladder and bowel incontinence. Bladder incontinence is when you can’t control when you urinate, which can be caused by weak bladder muscles or a blockage in your urinary tract. Bowel incontinence is when you can’t control your bowel movements or gas, which is often due to nerve damage in your intestines or rectum, or a chronic condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Why Is Incontinence So Common in Older Adults?
While incontinence can happen to anyone, it is more common in older people. When the body ages, the nerves and muscles that signal the bladder deteriorate. The bladder also loses its elasticity and can no longer hold as much urine as it used to. Other medical conditions such as arthritis and heart conditions can also affect bladder health.
Incontinence is more common in women than in men. According to the Mayo Clinic, urine incontinence affects 1 out of 4 women. The likelihood of suffering from incontinence increases with age, as women go through pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
Common Problems With Incontinence
Chronic urinary incontinence can cause more problems and complications. It doesn’t only affect the physical condition of the body, it also has emotional and mental implications. Incontinence can pose a challenge to family caregivers, especially if you don’t have any experience managing the condition. Some of the most common problems associated with incontinence are:
Bladder leaks and bowel issues can cause odor problems. Without the proper supplies, dealing with odor can be embarrassing, especially when out in public.
With the skin constantly exposed to urine and spoiled clothes, rashes, sores, and infections can happen. Proper bathing techniques will help address skin issues.
Incontinence can take a toll on a person’s confidence. It can affect their social lives and personal relationships, and can also cause problems in the workplace.
Essential Supplies for Incontinence Care
Having the right kind of incontinence supplies for seniors can help improve the quality of their lives. Incontinence aids will also make skin care and cleaning up easier for the caregiver. Below, we’ve listed some of the essential elderly incontinence products to add to your stock.
Cost: $15-$30 per box
Bed pads are absorbent mattress toppers that are placed on top of a mattress, chair, couch, or recliner to absorb leaks. These come in different absorbency levels and cost around $15 – $30. There are disposable options that come in box packaging and reusable cotton options that are washable.
Cost: $7-$45 per box
Incontinence pads are thick, absorbent pads with adhesive strips that are worn inside the underwear to soak up urine leaks. They are typically for lighter urine leaks and are not ideal for heavy incontinence. Bladder control pads are priced from $7 – $45. Aside from underwear pads, there are also washable and reusable pads that can be placed on the mattress, sofa, or chairs for protection.
Cost: $15-$50 per package
Diapers for adults come in many styles. When choosing the best diapers for seniors, consider the leakage protection, size, comfort level, flexibility, and appearance of the product. Simpler designs usually cost around $15 per pack, while high-performance diapers can be around $50 or more.
Cost: $11-$65 per package
Briefs are designed to have a more comfortable fit than regular adult diapers. With fasteners on the side, briefs are easier to wear, remove, and adjust. They come in a variety of sizes, absorbencies, and styles. Price ranges from $11 – $65.
Cost: $10-$55 per package
Pull-ups are disposable incontinence underwear with a gathered waist. They are usually less absorbent than adult diapers and work well to hold urine leaks. They aren’t ideal for bowel incontinence. Pull-ups cost around $10 – $55.
Cost: $15-$45 per package
For easier clean-up, mattress covers can be placed on the bed. They come in disposable and washable options, with different sizes and absorbency levels. They are designed to be waterproof so that leaks won’t get through to the mattress. The price per piece ranges from $15 – $45.
Cost: $8-$36 per package
Wet wipes are multi-purpose and can be used to clean urine leaks as well as other parts of the body. Incontinence wipes or washcloths are premoistened with cleansing ingredients that are safe for the skin. The price per pack ranges from $8 – $36.
Urine Odor Remover
Cost: $9-$58 per bottle
Urine odor removers come in many forms – sprays, granules, and concentrates. These neutralize odor and disinfect the surface. Price ranges from $9 – $58.
Where To Buy Incontinence Supplies
Most local grocery stores, big-box stores, and pharmacies carry some products for incontinence in the elderly. In larger towns/cities, look for durable medical equipment companies that specialize in all kinds of caregiver products and equipment for older adults. There are also free and discount incontinence supplies available in the stores and online.
Some of the online companies that deliver incontinence supplies are:
- Medline At Home
- Live Anew
- DME Supply USA
Does Medicare Pay For Adult Diapers?
Medicare does not cover the cost of adult diapers and other disposable incontinence supplies. Medigap also doesn’t pay for these supplies.
Does Medicaid Pay For Adult Diapers?
Medicaid can cover the cost of adult diapers and other incontinence supplies but they must be medically necessary. Medicaid coverage for adult diapers depends on the state you live in. In order for Medicaid to pay for incontinent supplies, they should be deemed essential to your treatment by a physician.
Financial Assistance for Adult Incontinence Supplies
Aside from Medicare and Medicaid, there are other resources for financial assistance for adult incontinence supplies. If you are looking for free incontinence supplies for seniors or need help paying for adult diapers, look into the options below:
Veterans’ Administration Health Care
The VA can help pay for adult diapers for veterans. They can provide standard-issue diapers on a regular basis. If you prefer a specific brand of diaper, a prescription from a physician is needed to justify your choice.
Veterans Home and Community-Based Services
Home and Community-Based Services or Veterans Directed Care is a program that can provide financial assistance for care services. Incontinence supplies can be included as eligible medical expenses.
Non-Profit Diaper Banks
You can find non-profit diaper banks in some states across the country. Diaper banks supply non-profit organizations in their area. They don’t provide diapers directly to individuals but they can help direct you to organizations in the area that can help. Check out diaper banks in your state in this directory.
Living with bowel and/or bladder incontinence is more manageable with the right treatment and supplies. If you or a loved one suffers from this problem, know that it is common and manageable. Learning more about incontinence, knowing where to purchase the right incontinence supplies, and asking for help can all make this time more stress-free for you and your loved ones.
Incontinence Supplies for Seniors Frequently Asked Questions
Some of the essential supplies for incontinence care include adult diapers, incontinence pads, mattress and chair protection, hygiene and grooming products, and cleaning products.
No, Medicare doesn’t pay for Depends or other adult diapers. Medicaid, VA, or non-profits may help pay for adult diapers and other incontinence supplies.
It depends on the lifestyle and medical condition of the individual. Typically, diapers need to be changed 4-6 times a day. Others who suffer from more frequent leaks will need to be changed 5-8 times a day.
Some of the areas where you can donate incontinence supplies include diaper banks, senior centers, Salvation Army, Goodwill, assisted living communities, local township offices, and your local Area Agency on Aging.
Amie Clark, BSW
Aging Advocate and Senior Care Expert
Amie has worked with older adults and their families for the past twenty-plus years of her career. Her senior care knowledge is based on her experience as a social worker, family caregiver, and senior care consultant. Learn more about Amie here.