Your choice of pad will depend on:
- the type of incontinence you have
- the amount of urine (wee) or faeces (poo) that is lost
- your physical capabilities
- personal preferences (e.g. colour, comfort, size)
Disposable pads are available at supermarkets, pharmacies and medical suppliers. Some companies and suppliers also offer free samples. Disposable pads are convenient, but can be expensive.
Disposable pads for urinary incontinence contain a special absorbent material that holds varying amounts of urine (wee) and are designed to be worn with firm fitting underwear or stretch pants. Some people need different or more absorbent continence products overnight for a good night’s sleep. Some pads are specifically designed for faecal incontinence and have built in odour control.
Reusable items are less expensive over time, but require washing and drying. Reusable products are available as pads and pants that contain built-in pads. Pants with built-in pads are designed to be worn like underpants.
To prolong the life of reuseable products, care must be taken to ensure that they are washed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Reusable items need to be replaced every 6-12 months.
All-in-one pads are a full-sized brief that wrap around the body and seal with reusable adhesive tape. This option suits people who cannot walk or stand, or for someone with a disability that affects their mobility.
Tips when buying pads
- Continence pads contain special absorbent material that allows them to hold different amounts. Different pads may be needed for different circumstances.
- 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.
- There are disposable pads and dribble pouches designed specifically for men with urinary leakage.
- Supermarkets stock continence pads, but in a limited range. Medical suppliers stock a wider range that might be better suited to your needs.
- It is cheaper to buy a whole carton of one product but this may not be an option due to the larger upfront cost or a lack of storage. Local medical suppliers will have more information on bulk purchase.
- If you have to change to a different pad, try to get a sample first or buy a packet before buying a carton.
- Some pharmacies have member discounts for customers and some medical wholesalers have discount schemes.
- There are a range of government funded financial schemes to assist with the cost of continence products.
Tips for carers
If you are caring for someone wearing a disposable pad, remember to:
- always wear disposable gloves (available from the supermarket or pharmacist) when in contact with urine (wee) or faeces (poo)
- wash and carefully pat dry the skin each time you change the pad
- use barrier creams and moisturisers to protect skin from perspiration, urine (wee) or faeces (poo) but check with the pharmacist about whether the cream chosen will affect the absorbency of the pad
- find a pad that better suits the person’s level of incontinence if the continence pad leaks
- immediately see a doctor if the skin becomes red and is sore.
Some men prefer to use a sheath (condom) drainage system instead of a pad. This device fits closely over the penis and is connected to a drainage leg bag, which collects the urine (wee). A larger drainage bag can be used overnight. Some condoms are self-adhesive while others use a separate strip of adhesive on the penis before the condom is applied.
- Condoms need to be fitted correctly to prevent leakage and a Nurse Continence Specialist can advise on this.
- Condoms need to be removed daily and the skin washed and dried carefully before being reapplied.
- Men will need to be mentally alert to use this appliance and will need help to apply and remove the condom and drainage bag if they have problems with their hands.
Bed and chair pads
Absorbent pads for beds and chairs (including wheelchairs and car seats) can be used alone or as a back up to pads and pants. Bed pads and chair pads can be particularly useful when travelling. Bed pads and chair pads have a waterproof backing and are available in disposable or reusable options.
Fitted waterproof covers are available for mattresses, pillows and doona covers. These are available in many waterproof fabrics, styles and sizes.
Absorbent bed sheets are reuseable only and can be tucked under the sides of the mattress. They all draw the urine (wee) away from the body and are often used at night to allow a good night’s sleep and prevent regular sheets and mattresses from getting wet. Reusable bed pads are not designed for faecal incontinence, however disposable bed pads are.
Examples of pads and furniture protection can be viewed at continence resource centres and independent living centres or larger medical suppliers, located in most states.
Catheters can be used by men and women. A catheter is a hollow tube that drains urine (wee) directly 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 bedside overnight. A catheter is used only if absolutely necessary and is prescribed by the doctor or specialist.