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Continence products

The videos below feature continence nurse advisor Anita Francis introduces a range of continence products and advises how to choose an appropriate product for you or the person you care for.

Nurse Anita Francis talks about continence products

Part 1 How to choose the right continence products

Continence nurse talks about continence pads and pants

Part 2 - How to choose the right pads or pants

Continence nurse talks about continence bed and chair protectors

Part 3 - Bed and chairs protectors

Nurse Anita Francis talks about uridomes and catheters

Part 4 - Uridomes and catheters

For some people, it is necessary to use continence products such as pads, pants, catheters, condom drainage, or bed protection to manage urinary and/or faecal incontinence. The use of continence products should manage any leakage and maintain the person’s dignity.

There are a wide range of products on the market. Assessment by a continence nurse advisor is encouraged to make sure the best product is chosen.

They teach how to use and care for these products. The National Continence Helpline can also provide product information and the details of local and national continence product suppliers.

Pads and pants

Pads come in many shapes and sizes and can be disposable or washable (reusable). The choice will depend on the:

  • type of incontinence;
  • amount of urine or bowel motion lost;
  • your physical capabilities and that of the person you are caring for;
  • personal preferences (e.g. colour, comfort, size); and
  • cost.

When you are caring for anyone wearing a disposable pad, remember to:

  • always wear disposable gloves (available from the supermarkets or chemists) when in contact with urine or faeces to protect yourself.
  • wash and carefully pat dry the skin each time you change the pad.
  • use barrier creams and moisturisers to protect the skin from perspiration, urine or faeces 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
  • If the skin becomes red and is sore, immediately see a doctor.

Disposable pads

Some disposable pads are available at supermarkets, pharmacies and medical suppliers. Some companies and suppliers will offer free samples for trial upon request. Disposable pads are available in many shapes, sizes and absorbencies.

Disposable pads are convenient, but cost can be an issue. Disposable pads contains a special absorbent material that holds varying amounts of urine 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. It is important to use a pad that fits snugly because a pad that is too big or too small or does not fit closely can leak and also cause skin rashes and skin irritation. This is why an assessment by a continence nurse advisor is helpful in determining which products are appropriate for the person you are caring for.

Reusable products

Reusable items are more expensive to buy but less costly over time. They require washing and drying between use. They include pads and pants with built-in pads. Some reusable pads need attaching to special reusable underpants. Pants with built-in pads are designed to be worn like underpants.

Reusable items need to be replaced every six to 12 months

To prolong the life of re-useable products, care must be taken to ensure that they are washed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Wash reuseable garments before putting it on the person for the first time

Tips when buying pads:

  • Depending on the needs of the person being cared for, different pads may be needed for different circumstances, for example:

-       a larger all-in-one pad for overnight

-       a small, cheaper pad when at home during the day

-       a better, more secure pad for going out and about.

  • A continence nurse adviser can help in the decision.
  • The supermarket has pads readily available, but only in a limited range.
  • If you have to change to a different pad, try to get a sample first or buy a packet before buying a carton.
  • It is cheaper to buy a whole carton of one product; however, this may not be an option due to the larger up-front cost or a storage problem. Local medical suppliers will have more information on bulk purchase.
  • Some pharmacies have discounts for customers who are members.
  • Some medical wholesalers also have discount schemes.

Sheath drainage for men

Some men prefer to use a sheath (condom) drainage system instead of a pad. A specialised device similar to a condom fits closely over the penis and is connected to a drainage leg bag, which collects the urine. A larger drainage bag can be used overnight. Some sheaths are self-adhesive. Others use a separate strip of adhesive on the penis before the condom is applied. Condoms need to be fitted correctly to prevent leakage. A continence nurse advisor can teach how to fit a sheath. 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 need help to apply and remove the condom and drainage bag if they have problems with their hands.

As many men prefer a condom to a pad, particularly those who have difficulty getting out of bed or walking to the toilet, it is usually worth a trial. Once again, it is important to get professional advice.

Bed pads, bed sheets and chair pads

Pads for beds and chairs, including wheelchairs and car seats, can be used alone or as a back-up to pads and pants, and may assist when travelling. Bed pads and chair pads have a waterproof backing. These can also be disposable or reusable. Absorbent bed sheets are reuseable only, though they are more absorbent than bed pads and can be tucked under the sides of the mattress. They all draw the urine away from the body and are often used at night to allow a good night’s sleep and prevent sheets and mattresses getting wet. Reusable bed pads are not designed for faecal incontinence, however disposable bed pads are.

Protecting bedding

Fitted waterproof covers are available for mattresses, pillows and doona covers. These are available in many waterproof fabrics, styles and sizes.

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.

The National Continence Helpline, 1800 33 00 66, can provide information on aids and appliances and where they can be purchased. The Continence Foundation of Australia website also has a continence product supplier directory to assist you in locating a supplier in your area.

Financial Assistance for continence products

Assistance with accessing continence products is available. Visit the Financial Assistance page for more information.