Sunday, 6 December 2015

A beginner's guide to incontinence pad and pants

People with dementia eventually become incontinent. Many people who look after them may have had no previous experience of dealing with this issue. It took me a long time to get my head round all the differing products. I'm hoping this round-up may be of help to others.

There are many brands out there, some of them household names and some of them relatively obscure. Just because you know the brand name it doesn't necessarily follow that a particular type of product is going to be ideal for the person you are looking after. There's a certain amount of research and trial and error necessary and, over time, needs will change.

There are 4 main types of pants or pant/pad combinations.

1) There are washable pants with separate disposable pads.

2) There are washable pants with built-in washable pads. These are intended for less severe incontinence.

3) There are 'nappy-type' disposable pads which are adult versions of what most people use for babies these days.

4) There are disposable 'pull-ups' with a built in pad.

Whichever type you go for it's a good idea to look at the absorbency which the manufacturers claim for the product. Obviously in normal use you can't be sure that you'll get the capacity that the manufacturers may claim. All sorts of things like whether the person with the incontinence moves about a lot or how well the product has been fitted will have an effect here. My general rule would be that if you keep getting wet or soiled clothes or bedding it's time to see if you can find something that works better for you.

Of course the best products are not cheap. In the UK many Local Authorities have a continence service which may provide free pads/pants but, sadly, it's often the case that the meagre number of pads per 24 hours provided is not enough and the pads themselves are pretty useless if you are dealing with moderate to severe incontinence. You should remember also that the costs of washing those products that can be washed may be considerable over time.

When S first used these products we settled for the separate pads and pants provided by the continence service and these were OK until the incontinence became severe when we had to look for more absorbent pads. The loss of mobility also made things more difficult and we finally found that the only things that worked pretty well for most of the time were pull-ups with the maximum claimed absorbency but even these cannot be expected to last all night.

I haven't attempted to cover faecal incontinence but small amounts will usually be contained by many of the product discussed above. The best way to deal with faecal incontinence, by the way, may not be with medication which is often prescribed. I have blogged in more detail here:

1 comment:

  1. Hi there
    You may be interested in our IMPRESS incontinence workshop on 24 February 2016 in Leeds. For more information about this event go to You can also find out more about INMPRESS at We'd love to have you join use if you can. The workshop is free and your expenses would be reimbursed.
    Best Regards
    Sarah King (IMPRESS Project Manager)