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About continence products and aids

Continence products such as pads and catheters can help people affected by incontinence to lead a normal life. Using these continence products does not replace the need to seek professional advice from a health professional. The first step in learning to manage your incontinence should always be to seek professional advice.

Choosing the right product

There are many continence products on the market that can assist you to stay dry and comfortable. These can be purchased at pharmacies, supermarkets or wholesalers. Selecting the right product to meet your needs is very important. A Continence Nurse Advisor can discuss your needs with you and help you choose the correct products to suit your needs. Continence Nurse Advisors also teach clients and carers how to use and care for products and keep you updated about new products at follow-up appointments.

Your local continence clinic or the National Continence Helpline can give you information about continence products, suppliers of continence products as well as information about subsidy schemes which you may be eligible for. To find out more contact the National Continence Helpline on freecall 1800 33 00 66.

Pads and pants

People come in all shapes and sizes. So do continence pads and pants. Pads can be disposable (i.e. use once and throw away) or re-usable (i.e. washable). There are disposable pads and dribble pouches designed specifically for men with urinary leakage. These are also available in different sizes.

Disposable pads are available at most supermarkets and pharmacies. You can get samples direct from manufacturers so you can work out what suits you best before buying them. Have a look on the packet for contact details or phone the National Continence Helpline freecall 1800 33 00 66 for contact numbers or websites. Some pharmacies and continence services may be able to provide you with sample products for trial.

The advantage of disposable pads is their convenience, however they can be expensive to continue using. Reusable items are less expensive over time but require washing and drying. This includes pads and pants with built-in pads. Some reusable pads need attaching to special reusable underpants or clothing and can even be custom-made. Pants with built-in pads are designed to be worn like underpants and removed when you go to the toilet. Reuseable items need to be replaced every 6-12 months.

Disposable or reusable pads may also be worn with stretch net pants. Net pants can be washed several times before discarding them. All-in-one pads are a full-sized brief that wrap around the body and seal with re-usable adhesive tape to suit people who cannot walk or stand or for someone with a disability, or where a carer is changing the product. The carer can change them while the wearer is lying down.

A larger pad will usually absorb more urine. Some large pads are specifically designed for faecal incontinence and have built in odour control. It is important to use a pad that fits snugly. A pad that is too big or too small or does not fit closely can leak and cause skin rashes and abrasions. Continence pads contain special absorbent material which allows them to hold varying volumes. Some people need different products overnight to keep dry for a good night's sleep.

Protectors for mattresses and chairs

Protectors or pads for beds and chairs, including wheel chairs and car seats, have a waterproof backing to protect the bed or seat. They can be used alone or in addition to pads and pants. These protectors can be disposable or reusable and are designed to draw the urine away from the body. They are often used at night to help with a good night's sleep undisturbed by a wet bed. These pads are not designed for faecal incontinence so a pad should always be worn as well where faecal incontinence may occur. Fitted waterproof covers are also available for the bed, pillows and doona covers.

Condom drainage for men

Some men prefer to use a condom drainage system instead of a pad. A specialised device like a condom (called a urodome) fits closely over the penis and is connected to a drainage bag, which is strapped onto the man's leg, which collects the urine. A larger drainage bag can be used overnight. Some condoms are sticky or self-adhesive. Others use a separate strip of adhesive on the penis before the condom is applied.

Short sheath condoms are available for men who experience retraction or shortening of their penis. As many men prefer a condom to a pad, it is usually worth a trial. Once again, it is important to get professional advice for the correct size and fit.

Catheters

A catheter is a hollow tube which drains urine directly from the bladder into a drainage bag or is connected to a stop valve. Drainage bags can be secured to the leg under clothing during the day or to a night bag and hung on the bed side overnight. Night bags hold larger volumes of urine. A catheter is used only if absolutely necessary and is prescribed by the doctor or specialist.